Why do I smell bad (down there) after we’ve had sex?

Jay Dee

Why do I smell bad (down there) after we’ve had sex?

Mar 22, 2017

There are many women who suffer from this condition, an unpleasant smell or odour after sex, sometimes for days or even a week afterwards.  Here’s a question about it from one of our readers: I have a question I have wondered about for years. This

Why do I smell bad (down there) after we've had sex?There are many women who suffer from this condition, an unpleasant smell or odour after sex, sometimes for days or even a week afterwards.  Here’s a question about it from one of our readers:

I have a question I have wondered about for years. This seems to be common with the women I have asked each personally about . Why do women have an odor of a few different scents, all not so pleasant, after sex when their husband has an orgasm inside the vagina? The odor usually happens the next morning and stays in a funk for the day or for a while longer. This also raises body image issues for the women about their own body when it has nothing to do with our cleanliness down there. We get comments from our husbands sometimes or we are very self conscious about them not smelling it. I have spoken to my husband plenty of times about it. He gets it now but for so long I really thought there was something wrong with my vagina. I do not believe it has anything to do with the women but something to do with what is going on the semen or this is just how it is?

So, what’s going on here?  Is this normal?  As the reader says, this seems to be common among many women she talks to.

It could be Bacterial Vaginosis

Let me preface this by saying I’m not a doctor, nor do I have any medical training.  That said, I don’t believe this odour is normal.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t common, though.  The most likely culprit is bacterial vaginosis, but you’d need a doctor to diagnose that.

Bacterial Vaginosis is when the natural and healthy bacteria that belong in a vagina are out of balance.  We’re supposed to have bacteria in our systems, they do good and helpful things for us.  But, they have to be kept in check.  Typically our bodies do this automatically, but at times it can get out of balance.

One of the symptoms is a strong odour which many describe as an ammonia-like smell or a fishy smell.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Additional vaginal discharge
  • Discharge that is grayish white and thin
  • Discharge and odour is more noticeable after intercourse
  • Pain during sex for a rare few

Why do I smell bad (down there) after we've had sex?This common condition affects about 29% of women in the United States, and likely similar numbers in other countries.  Pregnant women are especially prone to it, and women with STDs even more so.  So, this can explain why talking to other women can make it feel like this is normal.   While it’s not “normal”, it is common.  It’s like how being overweight is now common, but not normal.

So, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but yeah, it could be that something is wrong with your vagina.  The semen is merely exacerbating the issue, and that’s when it becomes more noticeable.  I’d suggest seeing a doctor about it to get a qualified medical opinion.  And your friends who have the same symptoms should consider doing the same.  I don’t mean to make you feel bad about it, but if you can clear it up, which is generally fairly easy to do, then you can feel a lot better about having sex.

This isn’t something to be ashamed about.  It’s just an imbalance of normally healthy bacteria in your body that can be easily fixed with antibiotics or even diet.  Go to a doctor, get checked, it might solve this hold thing easily.

Looking for help?

19 thoughts on “Why do I smell bad (down there) after we’ve had sex?”

  1. A says:

    Oh no, this is definitely NOT BV!

    I’ve had this problem since I got married in 2006 and have been regular with annual checkups and never once been diagnosed with BV. But, often times, there is an off smell 1 day or so after vaginal sex.
    That said, I have had some one-off problems with yeast infections. I highly recommend YB (yeast balance) pearls which are a probiotic that you can buy on Amazon. Since I started taking these daily I haven’t had a yeast infection. You can try them and see if it helps.

    Also, I’ve purchased a shower head that has the tubing so you can spray between your legs after sex. If I get the semen off of me after sex this helps a lot but obviously won’t work if you are trying to get pregnant. I strongly advise against douching as this can cause baterical balances that can cause BV and yeast infections.

    In summary, I believe it is normal but a checkup from the doctor is not a bad idea just to make sure you are healthy and that way you won’t have any fears.

    I’ve never researched why the smell happens but I’ve always thought it might relate to the sperm dying off or my body trying to rebalance vaginal PH after sex (PH in vagina vs. PH of semen are very dissimilar).

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Is that something they typically test for in an annual checkup?

      1. A says:

        Pap smears are normally to look for abnormal cells on the cervix. Some doctors will also send for tests for STDs, baterical vaginosis and yeast without asking, other doctors will not.
        Discuss your symptoms and ask for the tests for BV and yeast, they don’t cost extra and will just be part of your regular exam.

        In my case, I have been tested for all STDs, yeast, baterical vaginosis and even blood tested for herpes and other blood borne STDs. Everything was negative and I’ve had the same sexual partner the whole time. The only reason they tested so much is because of yeast infections and they wanted to make sure nothing else was going on besides the yeast.

    2. A says:

      I still don’t believe it is BV however it is possible.
      Intensity of smell seems to be a factor as well as how long the smell lasts.

      If the smell is lasting for several days and is rotten or fishy smelling along with abnormal discharge BV is possible.

      BV is very serious if left untreated because it can cause pelvic inflammation disease which can lead to infertility.

      By contrast a yeast infection (white cottage cheese like discharge along with itching) won’t cause infertility.

      1. Jay Dee says:

        It’s hard to say. According to the CDC, many women with BV have no symptoms. It’s also quite possible that you have only one symptom. It could be that the odor is the only one presenting itself in a case. Without a lab test, there’s no way to know.

  2. Amy says:

    “So, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but yeah, it could be that something is wrong with your vagina. The semen is merely exacerbating the issue, and that’s when it becomes more noticeable.”

    There is likely nothing WRONG with her vagina UNLESS she is experiencing a grayish, greenish or thick cottage cheese-like white discharge accompanied by itchiness and/or pain along with a strong foul odor which would then indicate an infection.

    Odor after sex, when no infection is present, is simply caused by the change in the vaginal pH. The vagina has a pH of 4.5 (acidic) while semen has a pH of 8 (alkaline) and when the two combine it changes the vaginal pH which can create a distinct odor but it shouldn’t be foul smelling.
    Washing after sex with warm water and very mild soap on the outside only may help. Avoid douches or other feminine hygiene products which claim to create some pretty smelling vagina as they only disrupt the pH levels and can lead to infections. Frequent bubble baths and the use of scented soaps and/or body washes in the vaginal area can also disrupt the pH.


    1. Jay Dee says:

      It’s my understanding that bacterial vaginosis has been deliberately separated from vaginal infection because it’s technically not one. It’s characterized by a thin discharge, not thick, nor cottage-cheese-like and only very rarely is accompanied by pain, and I’ve seen no mention of itchiness in the symptoms listed anywhere unless they are combining yeast infections and BV together with Trichmoniasis all under the category of vaginitis (the old classification).

      I took the smell being describe as “not so pleasant” to mean foul.

      But, as I said, you should get a qualified medical opinion and run the actual test (which requires collecting the discharge), don’t assume they’d tell you if you had it.

      1. Amy says:


        Actually there can be itching and a greyish to white discharge with BV.

        The odor many women notice after intercourse is different than the everyday odor of the vagina and can actually be somewhat unpleasant. But what I was getting at is that it’s a completely normal thing because of the changes in the pH levels and does NOT necessarily mean it’s any type of infection although of course it could be and seeing a doctor can certainly rule that out. And if she is diagnosed with an infection it’s important for her husband to be seen by a doctor as he may need to be treated also.


        1. Jay Dee says:

          I don’t know what’s more authoritative, MindBodyGreen.com or WebMD.com, but the later says “Bacterial vaginosis does not typically cause itching“.

          And, according to the CDC, if it is bacterial vaginosis, the husband doesn’t need to be treated. If it’s a yeast infection or some other kind of infection, then yes, he might need to.

    2. Anonymous says:

      I have had BV once before. I had none of the symptoms you are describing. In fact, I was one of those women who had no symptoms. It just happened to be caught on a yearly physical. True the person above may not have BV, but I want to stress there does not have to be discharge.

  3. BJ says:

    Antibiotics won’t balance anything..they will further the imbalance! Good bacteria is destroyed by antibiotics. Lessening sugar and good probiotics would be more likely to be helpful. No medical training, just lots of reading about health.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Generally, I agree, but I saw over and over again that what is generally prescribed is a mild antibiotic, not something harsh. Diet is a much-preferred method, but most doctors won’t recommend that, unfortunately.

    2. Kay says:

      I agree; antibiotics can lead to a whole host of problems. I would load up on the probiotics to try to regain a healthier balance; some can even be inserted into the vagina. My best friend gets a yeast infection every single time she takes an antibiotic and it takes her months to clear it up, so the treatment would be even worse than the ailment.

  4. ANW says:

    I’m glad you suggested that it might be BV. I worked for an ob/gyn for 5 years and it’s a lot more common than most women realize!
    I often have a semen-esq smell for about a day following sex. It’s not terribly strong, I can’t smell it through my clothes. I had BV once and it was definitely not the same smell! The odor was very strong and foul!!! You shouldn’t have itching with BV (part of why it goes undiagnosed). If you do, you might also have a yeast infection.

  5. Katie says:

    Most likely, the smell this woman is talking about is NOT BV. I know exactly what she’s talking about. After sex, it smells different down there. My husband doesn’t really seem to notice. I do. It lasts for a couple of days after sex. And I 100% know for a fact that I do not have BV. I’m assuming it’s like the person said above. Change in ph levels throws the scent off. I don’t think it smells good but it doesn’t smell like an infection or something unhealthy. It just smells off, and different than normal. It’s hard to explain.

  6. HK says:

    This happens to me too after having sex. I don’t know if others do this, but my husband and I always wipe ourselves down “down there” afterwards. Then I use baby wipes to get a little more thorough and I always use panty liners. For me I usually leak a bit for a while after. Not sure why, but maybe it’s from having babies (I had 3 c-sections) or just side effects from pregnancy. Anyway, it helps me and I hope it can help others.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’m currently with my client who is an OB/GYN and she says that it IS common and unfortunately quite normal. She says that it is as simple as bad chemistry. His semen and her fluids make for anot offensive odor. She said that if it’s BV it will not be limited to manifesting after sex.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      The problem is, doctors can’t seem to agree on whether sex exacerbates the smell from BV or not. Some medical doctors say no, some yes.

  8. BB says:

    After suffering with BV for over 8 years with no remedy from antibiotics, creams, etc from doctor, started doing extensive research online. For me, it turned out that a combination of probiotics (Reuteri specifically) and B vitamins (B12 & B complex) along with the occasional use of Luvena has kept it away. The only symptom I had from the BV was the horrible fishy odor, which obviously ruined sex.There was never any discharge and no itching. If I ever notice even a hint of a fishy odor I use the Luvena that night before bed and in the morning my PH is back to normal.

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