For some women, vaginal odor after menopause is one of the most uncomfortable and unexpected changes.
Generally, menopause does not directly cause vaginal odor. However, body changes that occur during menopause can lead to changes in the vagina. When you notice an abnormal odor down there, you may be unsure if menopause is responsible for it. Various medical conditions could also cause changes in vaginal odor.
Learn more about vaginal odor after menopause, common causes, and treatments below.
What's A Normal Vaginal Odor?
Before we get into what’s normal for vaginal odor, let's clarify that it's not unusual to have a smell down there. Every vagina has a particular smell, including a healthy vagina.
These odors vary from one person to the other, depending on what they eat and their body chemistry, among other factors.
There is no straightforward answer to what's a normal vaginal odor. Although each woman has a distinct vaginal odor, some may cause concern.
First, establish a baseline for you. How does it smell when your vagina is healthy? That is normal for you. Anything different from that could indicate that you may have some issues.
If you have hit the menopause stage or are almost there, you may already have some idea of what’s normal for you. In this case, identifying an unusual odor will be easier to do.
What Are the Types of Vaginal Odor?
There are several types of vaginal odors—some more concerning than others. The most common vaginal odors include:
A vagina may have a tangy smell, and this is very common. Some people liken a tangy vaginal odor to that of fermented foods. It is usually a result of a slightly acidic vaginal pH. This acidity helps prevent the harmful bacteria overgrowth down there. A tangy smell in the vagina is a sign of a normal bacterial balance. It should not worry you.
When there is blood in the vagina, you may notice a metallic odor. It happens during menstruation or after slight bleeding from sex. The metallic smell is usually a result of the presence of iron. Metallic odors are common and not usually something to worry about.
Your regular vaginal odor may have a sweet smell. However, if your vaginal odor has suddenly changed to a sweet one, it could be that you have eaten something like a citrus fruit. A sweet smell should not be a cause of concern.
The exception is if the smell is overly sweet, yeast or beer-like. It may also smell like honey or cookies. In this case, it could be a sign of a yeast infection. Contact your physician to check for a yeast infection if you also experience unusual discharge, itching, and dryness.
A fishy vagina smell is often an indication of a medical condition. A healthy vagina can sometimes smell like fish, too — but if you're dealing with an infection, it is not like fresh fish but a rotten one. Some common reasons the vagina may have a fishy smell include bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis.
If bacterial vaginosis is the culprit behind a fishy vaginal odor, a woman may also experience other symptoms such as burning or itching down there. This condition occurs when the healthy bacteria in the vagina are out of balance. According to the CDC, bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal condition among women between 15-44 years.
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection. It also causes other symptoms besides a fish vaginal odor, including itching, redness, and soreness in the vagina. It is treatable using antibiotics.
What Causes Vaginal Odor?
In order to treat vaginal odor, you’ll first need to identify what is causing it. There are numerous possible causes, but here are some of the most common.
Your level of hygiene can highly impact the odor that comes from your vagina. If you don't wash your vulva frequently, sweat may accumulate, causing a funky smell. This odor often goes away after showering. Frequent sweating also puts you at risk of developing infections, which also cause unpleasant odors. Remember that you don’t want to wash internally, inside the vagina, as it will cause irritation.
Several infections cause vaginal odor. These include bacterial infections and yeast infections. To determine if an infection is present, you’ll likely need to visit your doctor and take a test. If you’ve had yeast infections in the past, you may recognize the symptoms quickly. There are over-the-counter yeast infection tests and treatments you can use before scheduling a visit.
Before worrying too much about the sudden change in your odor, think about what you eat. Foods with high acidity levels may cause odors, especially when consumed in large amounts. Onions and garlic are a few examples.
Highly acidic foods can react with the normal microflora of the vagina, producing an unpleasant odor.
The normal pH of the vagina is between 3.8-4.5. However, before a woman gets her first period or after menopause, the pH is higher than 4.5. With this range, the vagina is healthy and safe from bacterial overgrowth.
When the pH is out of balance, it might be a symptom of an infection that causes vaginal odor after menopause.
Medications, mostly antibiotics, can interfere with the bacteria balance of the vagina causing odor changes. Antihistamines and herbal therapies may also cause these changes.
If you are on any medications, ask your doctor if they could be the cause.
Your vaginal odor may change according to your menstrual cycle. You may have a metallic odor when in periods or just after them due to the presence of blood. This odor will often go away and should not be a cause for concern if it's not there any other time.
During menopause, estrogen levels decrease. It may affect the health of the vagina, causing vaginal odor. Additionally, the changes in pH that happen during this period may cause odors.
What Causes Vaginal Odor After Menopause?
Estrogen levels start to go down during menopause. Low estrogen levels cause pH level imbalances down there, leading to vaginal odors. These changes also put a woman at a higher risk of vaginal infections.
When you’re experiencing menopause, observe your odor and listen to your body for any symptoms of an infection.
Vaginal Odor Treatment, Tips, And Considerations
Before getting a treatment solution for vaginal odor, see your doctor. They will determine the cause of the smell, and if it's a health issue, they can recommend treatment. After all, you cannot eliminate what you don't know.
However, you don't have to wait until you start having unpleasant odors from your vagina to get treatment. You can prevent them, which is always better than treatment.
Below are some tips on how to prevent vaginal odor.
Avoid Artificially Scented Soaps When Washing the Vagina
Washing the vagina regularly is one of the easiest yet very effective ways of keeping odors away. It gets rid of sweat, dirt, and dead skin, which may accumulate and create a smell.
However, be careful with the products you use. There are several products out there that are not suitable for washing the vagina. Soap products can contain ingredients that throw off the pH balance of the vagina, making a person susceptible to infections and bad smells.
Due to the body changes that occur during menopause, such products will put you at a higher risk of developing an odor.
Artificially scented soaps are not good either. Some of them contain chemicals that may alter the pH of the vagina, causing an unpleasant odor. Only use soaps that won't cause vaginal odor after menopause for the vagina and its areas.
Additionally, avoid using a loofah when washing your vagina. It might cause tears in the vulva since it is very delicate. These tears also put a person at a higher risk of developing an infection. A soft washcloth is the best for washing down there.
Generally, you can use water only to wash your vagina. However, you can still get some safe products to prevent vaginal odor after menopause for that extra clean and fresh feeling.
Don't Wash the Inside of The Vagina
The vagina self-cleans on its inner parts. Washing it, especially with soap or other products, can throw off its natural makeup, increasing the risk of infections that cause bad odors. When cleaning the vagina, focus on the outer parts only.
Douching is one of the leading causes of infections that cause undesirable odors on your genitals. Don't even think of starting it if you haven't tried it. Some people believe that it's a good idea. However, it does more harm than good.
And if you already have an infection, douching can push it further into the internal organs, including the uterus and fallopian tubes. You can imagine what can happen after this. Treating such infections will take time and puts you at risk of developing other more severe conditions.
Wear Loose, Breathable Underwear
Thongs and G-strings are not ideal for vaginal health. They interfere with the proper air circulation around the vagina, putting it at risk of getting infections.
Additionally, there is a very high probability of these undergarments transferring anal bacteria to the vagina.
It's okay to wear them once in a while. The problem comes in when you wear them regularly for a long time.
The best underwear to help prevent vaginal odor after menopause is loose and breathable. These allow air to circulate freely and don't transfer anal bacteria to your vagina.
Be Careful About What You Eat
What you eat has a significant impact on your health. You should be careful with your diet, especially when you hit menopause. Avoid foods that put you at risk of developing issues down there. For example, reduce sugar as much as you can. Eating very sugary foods puts you at a higher risk of developing a yeast infection.
Yogurt is also good for the vagina. It contains good bacteria, which are very helpful in maintaining normal vaginal bacteria. In this case, unflavored yogurt is the best.
Generally, eat healthy foods with lots of fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. They make your entire body healthy, including the vagina.
Hydrating sufficiently is essential to the normal functioning of the body. It is also very helpful in preventing unpleasant odors from the genitals as it helps flush out toxins and harmful bacteria from the body.
Additionally, when you hydrate adequately. Your sweat is not going to have an awful smell. That means even when you sweat, you will still smell fresh.
Practice Safe Sex
Advice concerning safe sex may seem like a no-brainer, but it's essential. If you are sexually active, practice safe sex only. Sexually transmitted infections can cause vaginal odor.
Remove Pubic Hair
If you sweat a lot in your genital area, consider getting rid of the pubic hair. Pubic hair traps bacteria, sweat, and oil. When all these come together, they produce an unpleasant odor. Additionally, they put you at risk of getting an infection.
Keep Your Vagina Free from Moisture
You need to keep your vagina free from moisture, especially if you sweat a lot. One of the best ways of doing this is by wearing cotton or linen underwear. These allow sweat to evaporate, keeping the vagina dry. Underwear made from polyester traps sweat against the skin, keeping the genital areas moist.
This moisture provides an ideal condition for bacterial growth, which cause vaginal odor after menopause. Remember to change your underwear frequently.
Menopause may come with some challenges, one of the most common being vaginal odor. These challenges occur due to the several changes in the body during this stage. Fortunately, you can prevent these odors by adopting habits such as using pH-balanced soap and eating foods that make the vagina happy. If you already have a vaginal odor, you can still get treatment. However, you have to be careful to prevent the odors from recurring.