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Foul odor after sex? Here's what that could mean.

By Roshini Rajapaksa, MD and Taylyn Washington-Harmon
Updated December 18, 2020
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Some odor after sex makes sense: You’re doing an aerobic activity that involves vaginal secretions, possibly semen, a lubricant, and a latex condom, not to mention two sweaty humans. But if the scent definitely smells off, there could be an underlying health-related reason. We asked Sherry Ross, MD, ob-gyn and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period, the many things that can leave an after-sex smell in your vagina.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Is the smell noticeably fishy? Then there’s a chance it’s due to a condition known as bacterial vaginosis (BV), which occurs when there is an overgrowth of certain bacteria in the vagina. While many women with BV don’t have symptoms, some might notice a thin white discharge, pain, itching, and a fishy odor that may be especially strong after having sex.

Sexually transmitted infection

Some STIs, such as trichomoniasis, can also cause a foul odor. Anytime you’re concerned about a sex-related smell (or any vaginal odor), don’t hesitate to see your ob-gyn, who can screen for these conditions and prescribe antibiotics if need be to treat an STI or BV.

A lost tampon

Losing a tampon inside of your vagina may sound like your worst nightmare, but it's absolutely possible to not be able to feel the string after sex. If left inside for too long, a tampon can definitely leave an unfavorable odor as well and the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

To remove a lost tampon, sit on the toilet and bear down. like you're having a bowel movement, and reach inside with your (clean) fingers. If you can't reach it, call your gynecologist, who can definitely remove it for you.

Poor hygiene

Sex is already a pretty sweaty activity, so a musky odor is sure to be present, especially if you haven't showered before doing the deed. “The vagina has sweat glands and hair follicles, which can attract bacteria and contribute to strong odor," Dr. Ross previously told Health. The vagina's location near the anus makes is crucial that you keep the area clean, to avoid bacteria buildup that can lead to foul odors, she adds.

Latex condoms

Anyone that's ever used a latex condom knows they have a distinct scent that can get left behind after sex. Due to the vagina's sensitivity, anything new introduced to it can offset its natural smell according to Dr. Ross. If you're not a fan of latex condoms, whether you're allergic or they simply smell funny, try a polyurethane-based condom instead.

New sex partners

Do you feel like your vagina smells like your boyfriend after sex? That's completely normal. Introducing your vagina to a new sexual partner falls on the list of things that can offset your vagina's natural smell like sex toys and spermicides according to Dr. Ross. "Not all odors are bad but if the odor is persistent for days following sex and you are experiencing other symptoms including a vaginal discharge, itching, redness and vulvar swelling you should see your healthcare provider," says Dr. Ross.

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