Your vagina undergoes changes when you grow older. Change in vaginal odor during menopause is common. Let us tell you all about menopause and vaginal smell.

Menopause is a phase when women see a natural decline in their reproductive hormones. It is often associated with hot flashes, sleep issues, low sex drive and mood swings. It also has an impact on the vaginal health. While vaginal dryness is common during menopause, women may also notice changes in the way they smell down there. Instead of a subtle smell, the odour tends to become more noticeable in women when they reach your mid-forties or fifties. Read on to know about the changes in vaginal odour during menopause and how to manage it.

What is menopause ?

Menopause, a natural biological process, is the stage that the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles and reproductive years. It is diagnosed after 12 consecutive months without a period. It typically occurs between ages 45 and 55, but it can happen earlier or later, says gynaecologist Dr Chetna Jain.

Woman experiencing symptoms of menopause
Hot flashes during menopause is common. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

The process can be divided into the following stages:

1. Perimenopause

This transitional phase begins several years before menopause as the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen. Symptoms such as irregular periods, hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and sleep disturbances may occur during perimenopause.

2. Menopause

A woman reaches this stage when she does not have periods for 12 consecutive months. The ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing most of their estrogen.

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3. Postmenopause

This stage follows menopause and lasts for the rest of a woman’s life. Menopausal symptoms may ease for some women, but the lower levels of estrogen increase the risk of certain health conditions like osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, says the expert.

Change in vaginal odour during menopause

A change in vaginal odour during menopause is typically due to hormonal fluctuations, particularly the decline in estrogen levels.

Here are the key factors contributing to this change –

1. Reduced estrogen levels

Estrogen helps maintain the natural balance of bacteria and pH levels in the vagina. Lower estrogen levels can lead to changes in the vaginal environment, potentially resulting in a different or stronger odour, says the expert.

2. Vaginal dryness

Decreased estrogen can cause the vaginal tissues to become thinner and less lubricated, leading to dryness. This dryness can contribute to changes in vaginal odour.

3. Increased risk of infections

The changes in pH and bacterial balance can make the vagina more susceptible to infections, such as bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections, both of which can cause changes in odour.

Change in vaginal odour during menopause
Sweating can lead to changes in body odour. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. Sweating and hot flashes

Menopause often leads to hot flashes and increased sweating. They can contribute to changes in body odour, including around the vaginal area.

Maintaining good hygiene, wearing breathable fabrics, and staying hydrated can help manage changes in vaginal odour. If the odour is accompanied by other symptoms such as itching, burning, or unusual discharge, it is advisable to consult a healthcare provider to rule out infections or other conditions.

How does it smell down there during menopause?

Due to changes in pH and bacterial balance, the vaginal odour can become slightly sour or musky, says Dr Jain. This is often similar to the natural odour, but may be more noticeable. During a 2016 study published in the Menopause journal, 24 percent of menopausal women reported noticeable vaginal odour. The odour might become stronger than it was before menopause due to vaginal dryness and changes in bacterial flora. Also, if there is an overgrowth of certain bacteria, such as in bacterial vaginosis, the odour can become more pronounced and unpleasant, often described as fishy.

How to do away with vaginal odour during menopause?

To manage and reduce vaginal odour during menopause, consider the following tips –

1. Maintain good hygiene

Wash the vaginal area with warm water and a mild, unscented soap. Avoid using harsh soaps, vaginal douches, or scented products that can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria and pH.

2. Change underwear daily

Make sure you wear clean underwear every day. They should be made of breathable fabric like cotton so that they allow better air circulation and reduce moisture buildup.

3. Stay hydrated

Drink water and healthy beverages to help maintain overall hydration and support the body’s natural processes, including those that affect vaginal health, says the expert.

4. Healthy diet

Apart from eating a variety of vegetables, and fruits as well as whole grains, and lean proteins, have probiotic-rich foods. Yogurt is one example. It can help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the body, including the vaginal area.

5. Regular checkups

See a doctor regularly for checkups. If you notice persistent or unusual vaginal odour, get yourself checked for infections like bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections.

6. Manage vaginal dryness

Use water-based lubricants or vaginal moisturisers to alleviate dryness down there. Such products can help maintain the health of the vaginal tissues.

We all have a distinct smell down there, but it may be more noticeable or stronger during menopause. If the odour continues to be strong, unpleasant along with abnormal discharge, itching or burning, see a doctor.

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