Why Does My Vagina Smell Like Ammonia?

Normally, the vagina has a mild scent similar to yeasty foods like yogurt and sourdough bread. This is because the genital area contains many of the good bacteria called lactobacilli.

Occasionally, the odor can smell slightly ammonia-like because of things like urine residue on the genitals or dehydration. However, an odor that smells like ammonia is usually a sign of a more serious problem.

Bacterial Vaginosis

A sour or fishy vaginal smell can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, which causes an imbalance in the normal bacteria of the vulva. The bacteria called lactobacilli normally outnumber the anaerobic bacteria in the genital area. When BV takes over, these anaerobic bacteria can cause burning during urination and changes in the color or consistency of vaginal discharge. BV can also lead to itching, pain during urination, or soreness in the area around the vagina.

Another reason for a fishy vaginal odor is trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection caused by a protozoan that lives in the vulva and is spread through sex. The main symptom of trichomoniasis is fishy or offensive smelling vaginal discharge, and it can also be accompanied by burning during urination, itching, pain or discomfort during sexual activity, or changes in the color or consistency of the discharge.

If a woman has trichomoniasis and doesn’t take antibiotic treatment, it can turn into an STI (sexually transmitted infection) such as chlamydia, which is very dangerous for the mother and baby. If you have a fishy odor or other symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible. In addition to antibiotics, you can help prevent a bacterial infection from taking hold by wiping yourself front to back after each time you have a bowel movement, using condoms during sex, and avoiding douching or feminine sprays or deodorants.

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Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

The odor of ammonia is not a normal vaginal odor, but it is sometimes associated with urinary tract infections (UTIs). The urine that comes from an infected bladder often smells like ammonia because the bacteria are converting nitrogen into ammonium in order to survive. Urine that smells like ammonia can also be a sign of certain types of STIs, including chlamydia and herpes.

UTIs are very common and usually cause an itchy sensation in the vagina that may be accompanied by discharge that resembles cottage cheese or beer. It is important to seek medical attention if these symptoms occur, as they can be dangerous for both the mother and her unborn child.

Other things that can cause a vaginal odor like ammonia include drinking too much coffee and tea, which can increase the acidity of the urine. Douching and the use of diaphragms can also irritate the vagina, causing an unpleasant odor.

Most of the time, a fishy-smelling vagina is nothing to worry about and will resolve itself with some simple hygienic or lifestyle changes. If a woman’s vagina smells like ammonia for more than a few days, however, she should see her ob-gynnecologist or doctor, as this could be a sign of BV or another infection or STI, such as chlamydia, that needs to be treated.

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A fishy smell can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, but it also can mean you’re dehydrated. A lack of fluids can cause your urine to become concentrated and create a strong ammonia scent, Roskin explains. When you’re hydrated, your body produces enough water to dilute the odor-producing compounds in it.

A tangy or fermented smell is another normal symptom of a vagina that’s out of balance, but it shouldn’t be as strong as ammonia. That’s because your vulva contains bacteria that release certain products to maintain the area’s natural pH levels. If these bacteria get overgrown by unhealthy or foreign ones, a sour or tangy smell can occur.

Other signs of a health concern include burning during urination, discharge that’s gray or yellow, itching, or a rash on the skin around the vulva. The CDC recommends contacting your doctor if you have any of these symptoms and suspect that you may have a BV or STI infection, especially if they’re accompanied by a foul odor. This trusted site from Nemours, a children’s health organization, has more info on feminine hygiene and vaginal odor in clear, easy-to-read language.


A foul odor coming from down there might just be a passing thing, related to hormone changes or stress levels. If that’s the case, simple hygienic steps can eliminate it, like switching to non-fragranced soap and washing with warm water. However, if the smell is more persistent and accompanied by other symptoms, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible.

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The vulva has its own sweat glands, called apocrine glands, which release an unpleasant odor when the body is breaking down dead cells and producing urea. That’s what creates the ammonia smell when paired with sweat and body odor.

Moreover, the vulva is host to many good bacteria, and any disruption to this delicate balance can lead to an infection called bacterial vaginosis. The symptoms of this infection include a fishy, ammonia-like odor, painful peeing and an itchy sensation down there.

Another cause of a bad odor down there is dehydration. The pH balance of the vulva is normally acidic, but when you don’t drink enough fluids, the urine odor becomes more concentrated and smelly. Drinking more water could help reduce this odor by diluting the concentration of those odor-producing compounds. In the meantime, you can try wearing a panty liner throughout the day to absorb any urine leaks. You can also add cranberry juice or lemon to your water to help change the odor of your urine.

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