Fishy Smell, Emu Oil?

By Joan Price | 18 January 2022

Senior woman with short grey hair, wearing a black leather jacket, she's looking pensive
an image of the author of this article

Joan Price


Joan Price calls herself an advocate for ageless sexuality. She is the author of four books about sex and aging, including the award-winning Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex and her latest: Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality After Losing Your Beloved. Her award-winning blog has been offering senior sex news, views, and sex toy reviews since 2005. At age 76, Joan continues to talk out loud about senior sex—partnered or solo. She is the co-creator of “jessica drake’s Guide to Wicked Sex: Senior Sex”. Find Joan at

"Coconut oil and Vitamin E stopped working for me, so I am freezing and using emu oil as a vaginal lubricant. Do you have any information about safety? Also, since last winter, I’ve had a slightly “fishy” odor. If I don’t bathe daily, I get an increased need to urinate, and the odor gets worse. I drink lots of water, eat a very clean diet, and exercise regularly. No caffeine or alcohol. I had a long wait for a March appointment with my regular OB-GYN, but the appointment was cancelled due to COVID."

Joan answers:

I can’t diagnose your odor, but your symptoms might be bacterial vaginosis (BV), caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, the most common reason for a fishy smell. It’s imperative to get a medical diagnosis and the right treatment, which might require antibiotics. For now, stop using any kind of oil as a vaginal lubricant. Oils and oil-based lubricants can increase risk of bacterial vaginosis. Switch to water-based sexual lubricants.

I understand that getting a medical appointment during COVID is problematic, but by now, medical professionals have created safe, efficient ways to see patients when it’s warranted. Start by requesting a phone appointment to describe your symptoms to your doctor, who will decide whether it’s advisable for you to come to the office, or whether a mail-ordered prescription will work for your situation. Don’t try to treat a sexual medical problem without a diagnosis — and no douching.

Additional resources:

Vaginal Odor: Causes and Remedies” by Berkeley Wellness

What conditions cause vaginal malodour?” by DernNetNZ

Is This Embarrassing Odor Normal for Older Women?” by Joan Price for Senior Planet

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