Several factors can contribute to changes in your body odor during menopause and how you perceive your unique scent. These changes usually aren’t cause for concern, but there are ways to prevent unwanted odors.

Hormonal fluctuations are the most common culprit, says Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, MD, author of “Menopause Bootcamp: Optimize Your Health, Empower Your Self, and Flourish as You Age.”

In particular, increases or decreases in cortisol, estrogen, and testosterone. Although these hormones fluctuate at a wide variety of times throughout your life, these shifts are more drastic during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.

Slight changes in body odor are often temporary. “However, strong and persistent body odors can be a sign of a more significant problem like an infection and should be addressed by a medical professional,” explained Judith Meer, PT, DPT, pelvic rehabilitation specialist with The Pelvic PT in New Jersey.

Changes in vaginal odor are more likely to be a cause for concern, especially if the odor is fishy, rotten, or yeasty.

Your sense of smell can change

Some changes in smell are a natural result of aging. Presbyosmia, also known as old age olfaction, can cause:

  • Hyposmia: dulled or lost sense of smell
  • Dysosmia: distorted sense of smell
  • Phantosmia: smell hallucinations or smelling things that aren’t there

“Dysosmia and phantosmia can cause people to think they smell stinky, even when they don’t,” said Meer.

Increased perspiration due to hot flashes or night sweats

During menopause, estrogen levels decline. Estrogen plays a role in blood vessel elasticity, so when estrogen levels dip, the blood vessels aren’t as expansive, says Gilberg-Lenz.

“This constriction means menopausal people are not as sufficiently able to release excess body heat,” she said, which increases the incidence of hot flashes and night sweats.

“The increase in sweating combined with greater bacterial diversity in the sweat itself can result in body odor,” explains Gilberg-Lenz.

An increase in testosterone causes this rise in bacteria. Testosterone is also linked to the production of a chemical called androstenol, which is associated with a musky scent.

Greater anxiety

A statistical analysis published in 2023 found that about 25% of menopausal women experience anxiety. More severe menopause symptoms were associated with greater levels of anxiety.

Regular sweat is released from eccrine sweat glands, whereas stress sweat is released through apocrine sweat glands, explains Stephanie Culver, MD, a Menopause Society Certified Practitioner with Pandia Health.

Apocrine sweat glands contain more proteins and fats compared with other types of sweat glands, which negatively affects the odor, she says.

So, if your anxiety levels go up during menopause, it’s natural for your sweat to smell different than what you’re used to.

Decreased estrogen disrupts your body’s overall hormone balance

Decreased estrogen is the main contributor to changes in vaginal odor.

Estrogen helps vulvar and vaginal tissues self-lubricate. When estrogen levels drop, so do lubrication levels, says Culver.

“Changes in lubrication and estrogen also affect the vaginal pH and change the general makeup of the bacteria that reside in the urogenital region,” she said.

There’s usually a reduction in the concentration of Lactobacilli bacteria, often known as “good bacteria” for the way they support vaginal health, she says.

Decreased Lactobacilli is typically associated with an increase in other bacterial strains, which can cause a change in scent and discharge.

Increased urine leakage

Many people experience pelvic floor changes during menopause, including differences in muscle tone and overall function.

“The decrease in estrogen, for example, can cause there to be significant thinning of the muscles and tissues around the urethra,” explains Meer.

A weak pelvic floor can lead to urinary leakage (incontinence). Urine has a distinct smell, and the release of it can affect how you perceive your vaginal and overall odor, she says.

Unwanted body odor can have a negative effect on your self-view, social interactions, and quality of life, says Culver. But there are things you can do to influence your scent right now and in the longer term.

Revamp your hygiene routine

After menopause, you may need to figure out a new system of hygiene practices, says Culver.

Even if you have never had to before, it can be helpful to shower immediately after exertion or exercise so that the scent doesn’t linger, she says.

Similarly, you might take a quick rinse after hot flashes if your schedule and lifestyle allow it.

Apply deodorant or antiperspirant frequently

Menopause Society Certified Practitioner Catherine Hansen, MD, head of menopause at Pandia Health, suggests applying antiperspirants or deodorants at the start of your day, as well as when you notice odor changes.

“Antiperspirants ‘clog’ sweat glands to impede the flow of sweat onto the skin where it’s metabolized by bacteria,” she explained. Meanwhile, deodorant has an antimicrobial effect that helps reduce bacteria.

Both can help reduce sweat-related odor, she says.

Avoid douching

If your netherbits are releasing a new scent, you might be inclined to get all up in there with soaps and other fragrances — but doing so will only exacerbate the issue.

Douching, as well as special washes and sprays, are going to lead to greater problems in the long run — such as recurrent infections or increasing odor — because they eliminate the good bacteria in the vaginal canal that support vaginal health,” explained Hansen.

“To keep your vulva and vagina clean, use regular soap [externally] or just water,” she says.

Drink up

Staying hydrated by drinking water will help keep your sweat from being so concentrated,” says Gilberg-Lenz. The less concentrated your sweat is, the less it will smell.

Keep an intake log

To start, Culver suggests keeping a log of your food intake, drug and alcohol use, and medications. You may want to avoid this step if you’ve had an unhealthy relationship with food in the past or think it may cause one.

“Certain foods and medications can contribute to body odor,” she said. So, figuring out which contributes to the body odor changes that you don’t like is key.

Just be sure to consult your prescribing physician before changing your medication routine. They might be able to recommend alternatives and can help you taper off the medication you want to discontinue.

Take a probiotic

You can help populate the vaginal canal with good-for-you Lactobacilli bacteria by taking a daily probiotic, according to Hansen.

Implement stress-relief protocols

Stress can always be a factor in odor,” said Gilberg-Lenz.

“Mindfulness practices, yoga before bedtime, minimizing blue light exposure, and deep breathing exercises can all be a part of a healthy routine that promotes keeping you calm and cool,” she said.

If unusual or unwanted body odor continues, make an appointment with a healthcare professional to discuss your symptoms. This change in scent could be related to an underlying condition that requires diagnosis and treatment.

Medical conditions stemming from the liver or kidney, for example, can result in greater production of metabolites that affect scent.

Persistent genital odor could be related to a sexually transmitted infection like chlamydia or another vaginal infection. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the risk of long-term complications.

If you suspect urinary leakage has contributed to scent changes, working with a pelvic floor therapist can help.

Mild changes in overall odor are common during menopause. While these changes may take some time to get used to, they’re rarely cause for concern.

If, however, you notice sudden or significant shifts in your body or vaginal odor, it’s a good idea to check in with a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying conditions.

Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.