What to Know About Changing Vaginal Smell After 50

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on April 07, 2023
4 min read

Your vagina changes as you age. After menopause, you may experience noticeable changes in smell, among other things. There can be many causes for a change in vaginal smell. This change can be confusing and embarrassing to talk about, but it’s common among postmenopausal women.

Menopause typically happens in women between 45 and 58 years old. During this time, you may experience other symptoms. In perimenopause, your vagina is naturally acidic, but after menopause your vagina becomes more alkaline. Your estrogen levels drop and your risk for UTIs and vaginitis increases. That’s why it’s important to monitor your changing vaginal smell. 

During menopause, your estrogen levels start to decline. This causes the vaginal walls to thin, which means there’s less exfoliation in the vagina. With dryness and less glucose in the vagina, pH levels rise. This can make you more susceptible to vaginal infections and inflammation. 

That’s why it’s important to monitor the smell of your vagina and vaginal discharge. It’s normal for your vagina smell to change as you age, but lingering odors that are overwhelming can be a sign of infection. 

As you get older, your estrogen levels decrease, causing an imbalance in your pH levels. 

But, when hormones change during menopause, you may experience changes to how your vagina feels and smells. This includes: ‌

Vaginal irritation. Itching and burning in your vagina can happen because of all the hormonal changes your body is going through. To relieve this discomfort, you can try vaginal lubricants and creams, estrogen cream, and natural oils like jojoba or coconut.

Dryness. This can happen when your vaginal secretions are decreased. It can also make sexual intercourse painful or uncomfortable. You can ease these symptoms with lubricants and gels.

Inflammation. This can cause infection or pain when urinating. If you have an infection, you may notice an overwhelming unpleasant vaginal odor. You may need to see a gynecologist to get antibiotics for your infection.

Discharge with bad odor. This odor may seem different and unpleasant to you. This happens when your vaginal alkalinity increases. A changing pH level in your vagina is normal during and after menopause. 

If you have concerns about your changing vaginal smell or overall health, it’s best to consult with your gynecologist. They can help guide you through these changes and prescribe products that can ease your symptoms. 

While it’s normal for your vaginal smell to change as you age, there are ways to minimize the odor

Wash your outer genital area. Use a mild, unscented soap to wash the outside of your genital area. This should be done regularly during baths or showers. 

Avoid douching. Douching is unhealthy for your vagina’s bacteria levels. A healthy vagina needs bacteria and yeast. Douching eliminates all good bacteria and upsets the balance. 

Take a probiotic. Probiotics help balance your body’s bacterial ecosystem. This can be a good start at managing your vaginal smell. However, you should talk to your doctor about other products that can help.

Estrogen therapy. Taking estrogen will alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause. 

Estrogen Progesterone/Progestin Hormone Therapy (EPT). This is a combination therapy that uses estrogen and progesterone. Boosting hormone levels can balance out your vaginal health. 

Vaginal smells change as you get older. But some smells are not normal and can be a sign of an infection or another medical condition. If the following odors are coming from your vagina, you should contact your gynecologist: 

  • A persistent fishy odor that smells like dead fish. This could be a sign of a bacterial or sexually transmitted infection. 
  • A rotten meat smell. This foul-smelling odor is a sign that something is wrong inside your vagina. This smell may come with other symptoms like colorful discharge and pain when urinating. You’ll want to see your gynecologist immediately.

Along with an overwhelming vaginal odor, you may have other symptoms that indicate a serious condition. Other things to look for include: 

  • Fever
  • Bleeding when not on your period
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Vaginal swelling
  • Genital rash and redness

These symptoms with a putrid vaginal smell can be a sign of a serious problem. While vaginal smell will change as you get older, especially during menopause, you should monitor the smell and other symptoms you may notice. It’s a good idea to talk to your gynecologist about any changes or concerns you have about your vaginal health.