Sex & Relationships

Is This Embarrassing Odor Normal for Older Women?

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Every month in Sex at Our Age, award-winning senior sexpert Joan Price answers your questions about everything from loss of desire to solo sex and partner issues. Nothing is out of bounds! To send your questions directly to Joan, email sexpert@seniorplanet.org.

I’m a 64-year-old woman, and I have two issues. After orgasm, my clitoris is hypersensitive, and I can’t stand to be touched for quite a while. This isn’t a new problem, but it’s worse now that I’m older.

I also have an odor problem: Oral sex and manual clitoral stimulation used to be my favorites, but now feminine odor — which my gynecologist says is normal — has me too embarrassed to even engage at all.

My gynecologist says that the natural changes after menopause cause changes in pH that lead to odor. She reassures me that I don’t have an infection. I haven’t been in a relationship for over a year because I’m so embarrassed about the unpleasant change in my genital odor. Oral sex is no longer an option. And why would anyone put their hands in there? What am I supposed to say? “Don’t touch me there!”

For the odor problem, I’m now trying a vaginal gel called RepHresh that eliminates odor for three days at a time. It’s working so far. Is there anything else you recommend? —Embarrassed

Let’s address the easy question first: It’s common for a woman not to want her clitoris touched right after orgasm. I suggest you let go of expectations that you need to be ready to go again right away and, instead, bask in the afterglow. Many of us need a recovery period before we want more stimulation. When you’re with a partner, cuddling, sweet talk and attending to your partner’s body or your own can keep you connected without direct stimulation to your already happy clitoris. If you’re flying solo, just relax into that lovely sense of well-being.

Your second question is more complex. It’s hard to know from what you’ve told me whether your odor is strongly unpleasant or just unfamiliar — not what you used to know as your scent. Since I don’t know which is the case for you, I’ll cover both possibilities.

A Really Bad Genital Odor

If your genital odor is strongly unpleasant, it can be a sign of a medical problem that your gynecologist missed. Get a second opinion from another doctor who specializes in post-menopausal women. Dr. Owen Montgomery, a nationally certified menopausal practitioner, told me this: “Yes, changes in a woman’s hormones after menopause — mostly diminished estrogen production — affect her vulvar and vaginal environment and can change sensation, lubrication, friction, smell and even the types of normal bacteria present in her vagina. However, there should not be a foul odor as a normal change of menopause.”

Dr. Montgomery says that unpleasant vaginal odor may be due to a number of causes:
1. A bacterial overgrowth called bacterial vaginosis that causes a vaginal discharge and odor
2. New bacteria from a new sexual partner
3. Concentrated urine due to dehydration
4. Urinary tract infections
5. Mild urinary leakage

It’s never a good idea to try and clean your vagina with soap or perfume, or by douching. “This is likely to make the situation worse, as it causes additional irritation and washes away the natural protection of the vagina,” Dr. Montgomery says. He recommends washing the vulva (your external genital area) with gentle soap and water only. If you feel the need to wash internally, use only warm water — no chemicals or soap -— and do this infrequently. Drink plenty of liquids and eat foods with vitamin C to improve the PH balance in your vagina and urine, which will help reduce bacteria counts.

“Most important,” Dr. Montgomery says, “Any woman who feels her symptoms are not being addressed needs to be assertive with her provider about getting better treatment or being referred to a different provider for consultation.”

Just a Different Genital Odor

If the odor is just different, what you’re experiencing is probably normal, natural and nothing to be embarrassed about. Sexual health educator and counselor Ellen Barnard, co-owner of A Woman’s Touch Sexuality Resource Center, explains: “The change in odor is due to the change in pH that happens after menopause, Some women describe it as a change from a ‘sweet’ odor to a more ‘musky’ or ‘sweaty’ one. The way to address it is to restore the vaginal pH through a combination of healthy eating, exercise and internal vaginal massage. This could be the Vaginal Renewal program or some other internal massage that promotes blood flow to the vaginal skin and encourages skin cell turnover.

Although a product like RepHresh gel doesn’t treat the underlying cause, it can be a quick fix, as long as you have no irritation or sensitivity to any of the ingredients, Barnard says.

I was struck by your adamant refusal to let a partner give you oral sex or even touch your genitals because of the odor that you’re concerned about. You can always use a Glyde scented dam — a latex barrier that covers the vulva but lets sensation through — for cunnilingus. It seems unlikely that your partner would notice your odor through manual stimulation unless there really is a medical problem. In fact,
I wonder if you are overestimating what your partner might experience because of your anxiety about the smell. You say you’re not in a relationship now because of this. Get yourself checked out by a second doctor, and if, indeed, there is no medical problem, I hope you’ll try Barnard’s suggestions and open yourself to the pleasures of a future relationship. —Joan

 

joan-priceWould you like to see more questions and answers? See all of Joan’s advice in Sex @ Our Age.

Send Joan your questions by emailing sexpert@seniorplanet.org. All information is confidential.

Joan Price is the author of the new “Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50: How to Maintain – or Regain! – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life”;  the award-winning self-help book “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex”; and the sexy memoir, “Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty.” Visit Joan’s  blog, “Naked at Our Age,” and her Facebook page.

COMMENTS

104 responses to “Is This Embarrassing Odor Normal for Older Women?

  1. ~a product called “yeastX” works well to flush you out inside .. it has PULSATILLA x28 in it ..
    ~plus there was a comment about “having orgasms” .. and Yes ! its true .. ladies, USE IT OR LOSE IT ! if you dont have a husband who is interested, or for whatever reason, then manual stimulation or get a SHOWER MASSAGE by WaterPik ! dial the correct pulse and enjoy ! you can target where you want nd the intensity ..

  2. Hi, I have the very strong fishy smelling vaginal discharge like you ladies menntioned since my mensus stopped. Disgusting ! ! ! odor.
    However: When we built our house before we married I had a Bidet’ installed in our master bathroom toilet-room. A Bidet’ is a floor/sit-down sink for feminine hygiene. I suds and rinse my genital area TWICE each time I wash it which does the job for about 12 hours. When I shower or bathe in a bath tub I suds and rinse the area TWICE too. Some days I do a partial bath which is, I bathe just my face, fanny, and feet . I would not be without my bidet, it is well worth the cost. I found my Bidet’ is versatile too. I can do a pedicure, soak my sore foot after bunion surgery, etc. (It’s a sink! and it works for me.) yea ! ! I still hate the strong smell after the 12 hours, but 12 is better than none :( I do have the Luna genital deodorant but not impressed with it. Douching with warm water and 1Tblespoon of Iodoral in addition to above is a positive too. (no such thing as the “Golden Years”!) …….Pepper :)

    1. correction from Pepper: Iodoral is the oral iodine for thyroid help, Betadine is the topical iodine or what I was told about by a female OB/GYN doctor I could use for vaginal douche. (Tbl in warm water)

  3. At 67, and not having had sex nor the desire to after 11 years, I had also had a hysterectomy many years ago leaving ovaries. I had a nervous breakdown which was the start of my celibacy. My husband was impotent which was quiet possibly a god send for him. However the vaginal smell is atrocious. I cannot stand myself. I had vagiosis and that was treated by a gyno. I have been told thrush, so hit myself with the 7 day treatment to no avail. I have tried gels, and vagifem tablets to put estrogen back into my body. Yeah, nah, it is still smelly down there. I have stopped asking for help from the doctors, if it is not used it doesnt matter, but I am curious as to why.

    1. Here’s what I’ve discovered as I too kept noticing a weird vaginal odor that I had Not had before (I had a full hysterectomy 12 years ago) – I kept seeing ads for Lume (pronounced Lu-mee) deodorant and it turns out the deodorant they sell is for EVERYWHERE. A female gynecologist who created the brand determined that odor is the product of bacteria and not the vagina (provided you don’t have an infection) . They have wipes, stick deodorant, cream deodorant and bar soap that lathers really nice. The products work and their ads cover all the basis.
      I was pleasantly surprised at how well it has worked.

      Now another thing I picked up on a few weeks back was the use of Hibiclens . It’s an antibacterial wash that is used in hospitals. Before my surgery I was instructed to shower and use Hibiclens all over – well I did use it all over and I’m telling you there wasn’t an odor to be found even 3 days after surgery (I couldn’t shower). It removed all odor from my lady parts and booty, sweaty cleavage musk etc. So I realized that the gynecologist was right about the odor being produced due to bacteria from your butt.

      So if interested you can visit the Lume Deodorant website (and I think they have a Facebook page too) at Lumedeoderant.com and the Hibiclens can be purchased in a drug store or on Amazon. Give it a try – I think it will help a lot.

      1. Thank you so much for this information. To the point with clear explanation and amazing results. Gonna order Lume and Hibiclens now. You saved the day…and the night Sher.

  4. Though the article is informative, I find the majority comments to be very strange to put it mildly. All this talk about wet wipes and water is confusing to me, of course residual urine would cause what some are calling “rot crotch’ dry wiping should obviously be considered unsanitary, most people wash their hands after urinating even if no urine has touched them so why would it be okay to dry wipe the area that urine has actually touched? Also, we ladies have been conditioned to dislike the natural odor of ourselves, younger women experience the same change in odor that we mature women experience but they usually only experience it during ovulation. The saddest part is many men have been trained by women to dislike women’s natural odor which is designed to attract men, though it might repel other women, it should not repel men. If she is clean and healthy – she should not assume that her natural scent is offensive, If it is offensive it is because of social conditioning that contradicts biology. (unless of course the offensive odor is from residual urine left behind but then she is not really clean). Please, teach your daughters and granddaughters to clean urine from their lady bits with clean water.

  5. I am so thankful I stumbled onto this site. I am so happy to learn that I am not the only 63+ yr old that has a rotten smelling vagina.
    I’ve gone to 2 different doctors, had a CT scan and all sorts of tests to see what was going on. Everything was good. The doctors gave me different creams that did absolutely nothing for the odor.
    I have gotten some great advice from you ladies that I am anxious to try.
    Thank you all for sharing.
    Kathy

  6. We always shower before sex at our older age…different from when we were in our 20s, 30s, 40s…for sure. Sometimes after soap and water, I use a washcloth before sex with the soap at both ends to be sure there is not odor, then I use either Medline Remedy Foaming Body Cleanser and leave it on a short period of time, the rinse, or sometimes some baking soda to neutralize smells. Seems to work for the time we have sex. The foul crotch odors return after about an hour…but at least we have a great sexual experience. Smells can mess things up.

    1. I’m 68 and only have oral sex with the same man I see on ocassion! I developed a discharge sometimes with an oder! Dr. Did test and I have no infections or dieases! It leaks more through sleeping! I have to wear pantyliners! Do to medications he can’t perform regular sex it’s oral only! I’m so worried about the oder I don’t know how to stop it! I don’t want him to be turned off from it! We have the best connection together but what can I do to be more secure about him giving me oral! Than you!

    1. You know what I started using and it seems to be helping is a little squirt bottle like the kind you used after having a baby after going to the bathroom. I got a pack of 3 Perineal Lavette Irrigation bottles for under $5 on Amazon. Sometimes I add a tiny bit of hand soap to the water. I got them hoping it might help but also because I was worried at some point I might not find toilet paper in the beginning of COVID. It really does seem to make a difference. I do dab with a little toilet paper after I use the bottle to squirt water front and back. I’ve also seen that they have bidet bottles that are a little bigger with a kind of spout thing. It’s super cheap and definitely worth a try. I really feel clean.

      1. Your local Dollar Store carries squirt bottles, in the kitchenware department for condiments like vinegar, ketchup, mustard, etc. I bought one just for adding a bit of bleach to my dishwater to disinfect everything. The bottle I bought allows you to squirt the area & there is a top you can put back on the nozzle that stays attached to the bottle so you don’t lose it. Amazon is my last ‘go to’ because of shipping fees or something that’s REALLY hard to find, these aren’t and check the baby section too.

  7. I am embarrassed by the odor as well. I have tried many products but haven’t found anything that works well. The other thing that is going on is that my underwear is becoming bleached in the crotch. Anyone else have this issue?

      1. I know I know…. It’s gonna sound very weird but I am looking forward to my wife getting older just to see how strong it can get. Being how much that smell turns me on, I could only daydream and imagine. I love long weekends, I make sure she don’t wash it at all, and I truly enjoy the aroma.

    1. I’m only 30 but I’ve had this problem before too; I’m still not sure what it was from exactly, but I do know that I had BV and a hormonal imbalance that, when corrected, it seemed to go away. You might need a test from the doctor and, if you’re not getting any answers from your doctor, try talking to an integrative medicine doctor who specializes in treating hormonal problems. (Regular doctors don’t seem to do tests for hormones or not the same that integrative medicine doctors do)

      1. Karen, I’m with you. I’m 70 years old and I don’t have that problem either, but my doctor checks my hormone levels. I’m in hormone replacement. Sounds like these ladies need to have their hormones checked. That is just my two cents. Take it or leave it. Hope it helps some of you.

  8. same here, but later found out he was having an affair and taking viagra without me knowing…not saying this is what your husband is doing, just telling my situation, I trusted him fully and just thought he wasn’t interested in sex anymore, he said he didn’t hug me anymore because of my arthritis…sad but true

  9. Does anyone know or recommend the “Mona Lisa Touch’ to alleviate this?? Expensive and insurance won’t pay—and I have read mixed reviews as to it’s safety/effectiveness. But would like to hear from women who may have decided to try it.

    1. I had the same problem so I went to 2 dr before I got one to listnen to me. She prescribed me patch it solved the problem! I had my uterus removed in 78 at 24 and my ovaries in 96. It was 2012 I got the patch I had been having problem a few years.
      The generic didn’t work. Vivelle dot

    2. Had it done. Nightmare…not FDA approved or safe according to the FDA and Gynecological Medical Associations. Terrible expense and it does hurt no matter what they tell you. I would definitely do your research if you are considering it. I did not and really regret it.

    3. I have had the procedure and I think its incredible. It did help with odor and many other issues. Dryness, itching etc. It is however expensive and requires yearly to bi-yearly maintenance treatments. Definitely worth checking out.

    4. I had 4 treatments. After the first, the next day I was in severe urinary pain. I developed a terrible UTI & months later another one that hasn’t responded to antibiotics. I am also in horrendous chronic vaginal (burning pain–much worse than before treatments). The treatment is extremely painful on vulva. Never let the dr. laser the urethra. Mine really was damaged & hurts all the time. I also have incredibly tight pelvic floor muscles which happened after the laser. Nine months of hell & $4,000 & I wish I were dead. I cannot live like this. Will be jumping off a very tall building!

  10. I am a 72 y/o man. I read the articles and comments with great interest and found them most informative and interesting. I wish I had had the awareness to read like type information years ago. If I had it would have made my wife’s “female” concerns more understandable.

    1. Joan I just found your sight looking for answers I’m so happy you made a sight available for we women that have problems Joan I had a full hysterectomy in 2002 sex was fantastic and about 3 years ago it started hurting me it’s the skin or area around the entrance of the vagina hurts so bad during intercourse it’s gotten to the point that I don’t let it in I’ve used replens to try to get it moist again KY gel for sex doesn’t work can you please help me I want to enjoy him again I’ve been to gyno but they want to give u estrogen but that causes cancer I don’t want that to happen please help and thank u again for your caring of us women

      1. Go to a hormone specialist. Unless there’s cancer in your family, don’t worry. But a DUTCH test can tell you how you metabolize estrogen…dangerously or safely. Hormone replacement therapy with subcutaneously injected pellets of testosterone and estradiol will turn your aging body around in every way. Not only is it good for your mind, heart, muscles, endurance, stamina, the libido returns to a 20-30 year old. Post menopause women’s and men’s genitals and sex organs dry up, shrink up, and your entire body returns to childlike again. No breasts. No waist. Men get pot bellies, muscles go flat and fall. Hormones are the reason you looked and felt so good when you were young. Your body needs hormones to reverse the aging process. After bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, your insides and outsides return to health and will function better, even sex organs, and your doctor will say “I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep doing it.”

      2. I read an article today about what can happen when your pelvic floor has been neglected and apparently because of the pandemic and all of the sitting we are doing, our pelvic floors are suffering. Painful sex is one of the red flags as well as incontinence and constipation.
        The article was in the Washington Post today. Worth a read!

  11. Yes it helped to read some of these problems. I had a urine infection. Took the pills for 10 days. Now 2 weeks later . I had a little Order now I had a little discharge white in color. Is this normal. Go a 70 year old?

  12. So nice to hear that I’m not alone in this! Menopause brought really uncomfortable vaginal dryness and a “musty” odor that I had never had before. I hated the old lady smell, but I didn’t like the idea of using hormones (which is what my gyno was pushing). I tried all the diy remedies I read about online. I made my own coconut oil suppositories- that was a mess. I tried drinking apple cider vinegar in water every day. I tried a bunch of OTC products. Two things have worked for me. First, a product made by Ladybits Toiletries called Hydrette Jelly that I bought online. This lasts the longest of any of the vaginal moisturizers I tried and helps with odor, too. The second thing is having regular orgasms. Something about the “flushing” effect of getting the juices flowing (or maybe increased blood flow to the area?) really seems to help. It can be easy for me to let a long time pass in between orgasms, as my interest has waned, especially when I don’t feel good about my body. This can be a vicious cycle. I’m not ready to give up sex altogether, and I find that it’s like anything else- what you don’t use, you lose.

    1. I was happy to read these questions and answers. I am 66, active and married. I noticed a different vaginal odor in past few months. I had always felt “fresh” in that area and now mildly fishy. I think it is because I do not have sex. My husband lost interest 15 years ago. After many a fight I gave up. My desire also waned, but I miss it and Hope I don’t die before I experience again.

  13. Ladies, let me first say that I’m glad to hear there is sex after 60! I am 48 and recently ran into an old friend. We engaged in a sexual relationship for a hot minute. But i am having a urine smell, I have been to the Doctor, all my test came back negative for anything. I feel like he was a bit large or well endowed. Could he have damaged something like my bladder? Even though the sex wasn’t really rough, I guess I’m asking can rough sex have an affect on an older woman such as myself. If that makes any sense. I to am so afraid that I’ll never be able to experience sex again. Will RePhresh help with a smell of urine? I dont want to douche, there are some vaginal inserts that can be used 20-30 minutes before you shower , are these a good choice, and will they help with this smell?

      1. Hi Sandra, I have found that the terrible odor is from dehydration. Yes, I know, I thought I was drinking plenty of water, apparently not. I fill up 3-20 oz bottles of water and drink them all, every day. I have a Yeti bottle filled ice that I refill throughout the day. The more diluted the urine, the better hydrated you are, no more odor. I hope this helps.

  14. I am 75 and have a urine odor most all of the time. This has been going on off and on for about 3 years. It seems that when it is clearer like water that it is not as strong. When it is very yellow it has an odor, sometimes like eggs? I have asked the doctor about it and he said to drink lots of water, but it never goes away. The only time I have found that I don’t have it is when I went to have a procedure done and they gave me fluids in my veins, and ran that bag of fluids through me, it was clear for approximately 4 weeks without an odor. Then it came back. When I am trying to stick on a low-carb diet and eat lots of boiled eggs, my urine will smell like the eggs. You keep recommending Rephresh. Will this help that when it seems that it is only coming from the bladder? My neurologists doesn’t seem to be as concerned as I am. I just don’t like it! My bladder leaks all of the time, so I am wearing a Poise pad all day everyday and it definitely
    is there when I change pads. HELP!

    1. No, I’m not recommending Rephresh — I’m recommending getting a solid diagnosis of what’s going on so you know how to treat it. Your current doctor isn’t helping. Be clear that you need get this problem diagnosed. Ask for a referral to another doctor if this one can’t be more helpful.

      — Joan

    2. Hi,,exact age,,even,same name. It’s just annoying, right? I am a youngish 75 and this just bothers me
      So much., I pride,myself on,my home being Fresh, Love Flowers,,and for,myself have always been okay with,little,perfume etc., yikes, not liking it!

  15. If its a foul odor, that doesn’t have the yeasty discharge, then its bacterial, even if ever so slightly. I may not be post menopausal, but I have had changes recently. I went to the dr, told her it was BV, she gave me diflucan (for yeast), which if u do, makes things worse. Its not as bad as it has been before, its barely noticeable, but its noticeable to me. If you’ve put anything in the area recently that you aren’t used to, it may have caused it. For me, it was simply a sanitized dildo but it can simply be a new fabric or detergent. Or maybe just a change of diet. See a new doctor, exagerate your symptoms, if you have to. Get it checked out! You should not have to deprive yourself.

    1. Rose hydrosol: bulgarianroseotto.com/rosewater.html
      You don’t want to “over douche”. Watch yourself and make decisions based on your particular body. I usually do 1x every 2-3 weeks. If I’m having “trouble”, I will 1x/week, but not unless I absolutely must. Again, every person is different! You must analyze your own body.

      PS rose hydrosol is great on face and general body too, b4 moisturizer. It’s one of the French women secrets. :-)

      1. Yellow fishy discharge, foul smelling. Have to change liners several times a day and in the morning it’s unbearable. I am concerned about infection and if it needs treatment with antibiotics but in earlier lab works (I am 87) no infection has been found that I can recall. I am still using an E-string but even while I was not, I had the same problem. Also, what liners are recommended for this discharge. The leakage is fortunatele now minimal since I began walking 45 min. daily. I am physically active in general. Where to buy rose hydrosol?

  16. Douche with half water, half peroxide everyday. It takes the smell away but doesn’t cure it. Works for me, doesn’t burn or hurt at all. I have suffered for several years and have been so desperate to find a cure, this helps until one is found. I have used this everyday for 6 months now and have had no issues

  17. After 27 years of being Married my husband died and I met and stared having sexual relations. I had been without sexual relations for 12 years. I am a 75 year old women. I truly enjoy the newly found sex but have developed a vaginal discharge that smells. This is so embarrassing. What can I do?

    1. As I wrote in the answer to “Embarrassed,” get a diagnosis from your gynecologist, and if that isn’t helpful, ask for a referral to a doctor who specializes in post-menopausal women. You need to get your issue diagnosed before it can be treated. I’m glad you’re experiencing newly found sexual joy! You are using safer sex protection, right?

      — Joan

    2. Im 53 and I believe the warm vaginal area and musky smell is menopause related. I’m not going to lie, it’s really a bummer. Everyday I struggle with urine discharge and odor. I think drinking alot of water is so important and exercise, too. Keeping it fresh down there and just letting yourself be free whenever you can. Sleeping without panties at night is a good thing. Let it breath.
      It’s tough becoming ‘mature’ for different reasons but I don’t want to stop living and loving over it. Everyday I feel like I’m struggling with this issue but I’m not sure what else to do. It’s like a burning hot oven down there. I also struggle with ‘bo’ from under my arms. Like I can actually have a scent from sweating and it could be from sleeping at night. You try many things and different deodorants and nothing works!

      1. I have found that when I have night sweats, I stink the next day no matter how much I scrub in the shower. The only thing that has worked has been to not let myself get too warm at night. I just wear light, long sleeved pjs and cover with a sheet with a fan on, but not pointed directly at me. It also helps to take a shower with Dial Gold Bar antibacterial soap before I go to bed, because I read online that odor is only caused when sweat mixes with bacteria on your skin. This seems like something more than that, though.

  18. I performed oral sex on a young woman, one time, who used boric acid douches.
    It was a horrible experience and I never saw this Woman again!

    Educate your selves. Every woman has her own natural scent– and we men get off on that!!

    Unless a Doctor told you to do it, don’t douche with anything.

    1. Amen to that! Unless it is an infection, the musky smell on a woman will drive most men crazy. Don’t ask my wife to keep it hairy as I find this retains and makes smells stronger. She is going through menopause, so when its dry down there I do my best with my tongue and lips to moisten. Sometimes up to an hour at a time before I insert even. Such a turn on!! Men need to appreciate it this, better than viagra!!!

  19. I am an 89 year old widow remarried after 59 years. I lack an interest in sex at times, but my husband is still interested. He complains that I used to be more responsive, but now it is very difficult to get me aroused. Is it my age?

      1. I am having trouble with vaginal odor. It seems like everything I eat or drink affects how I smell. I have had to give up sugar and caffeine, which was very hard. I still give in sometimes. I had a teaspoon of honey tonight because I was craving a soda and I am praying I don’t have any I’ll effects on Monday. It hurts so much to hear people say I must not know how to wash my vag, or say that I smell like onions down there when I can’t smell anything. This has ruined my self confidence and made me very self-conscious. I wash two or three times a day. My doctor prescribed an estrogen cream and said it would not be an overnight fix. And she said I could not use deodorant products at the same time as the estrogen. So I stopped using the estrogen. She did not tell me that I could get the odor mostly under control by diet, and THEN start using the estrogen. How can I find a doctor who actually cares when I say that I have this odor and it is ruining my life? I am 58 years old and have lost 80 lbs this year trying to modify my diet to decrease the odor. It seems like eating alkaline foods is the only thing that helps. All the high acid foods are the ones that give me trouble. I am desperate for answers. I have been to many doctors and no one seems to know much about this. They just tell me I don’t have an infection and they can’t smell anything. But people at work can. I worry constantly about getting fired. My supervisor on my last job was the ringleader in telling people I was dirty within my hearing. I got a new job starting Monday, but I am so afraid of having this problem there all over again. It hurts so much.

      1. Hi I’m 69 years young & have been in a relationship now for alittle while .. the man finds kissing yucky.. .. everything else is yeah ok . Have u heard of this or is he putting me on ???

    1. I have been married to the same man for 37 years, and we always had a very active sex life, even though the only birth control we practiced was withdrawal. I’m only 56 and my 60 year old husband lost interest in sex about the same time I went thru menopause at age 48; to the point where he can no longer get an erection! I still want sex but he refuses. His doctor even gave him Cialis and Viagra, and he’s too embarrased to try them. I’ve even explained to him how much better sex could be now that we no longer have to practice birth control. I’m not sure if its psycological or physiological…did he go thru some kind of male menopause, or is he just impotent? He refuses to talk about it and gets really angry every time I bring up the subject of sex. We don’t even kiss or hold hands now, and it makes me feel very rejected. Even a hug now and then would be so wonderful, but instead, I live totally un-touched.

      1. I’m 73 …I feel rejected as well. No sex. I feel undesirable. The kisses are pecks and he leaves the bed in the morning without even touching me. He always use to pull me close in the morning before we got up. It’s like we’re roommates. I thought as we aged we there would be appreciation for all we have done for each other.

      2. I know exactly how you feel. My husband did the exact same thing I moved into the spare bedroom because It hurt not touching. It’s like you went from lovers to roommates overnight.

      3. Martha, you’re story explained me to a t. Im 60 and my husband is 58. He bagan having problems with sex because if blood pressure and he will not go to a Dr about it. He doesn’t hug, kiss, or even talk a whole lot. I am not ready to throw in the towel. I feel lonely and ugly and undesirable. Its a daily struggle.

  20. Hi, just wanted to share some info that has helped me. Granted, I am only a year into menopause at 56, but during the peri years I had some dryness & irritation & noticed a change in odor, as well. My GYN suggested a product that I continue to use daily. It’s called Luvena Vaginal Moisturizer. It keeps the pH balance right. You don’t use it internally, but daily external application does the trick. It has a lovely light cranberry scent, is non-irritating & doesn’t have any harmful things in it – safe to use daily (or more.)

    The other thing I did was give up soap “down there” & switched to Emerita Feminine Wash. (Again, no synthetic fragrance, etc. – read the labels, ’cause most of the drugstore fem washes were loaded w/chemicals.) In my experience, irritating synthetic fragrances contributed to my odor problem. Even though I’ve been “officially menopausal” for a year, the dryness & odor thing has not come back since I’ve been on the above routine for a few years. Hope this might be of help to someone out there.

  21. Thank you, Ellen Barnard, for adding your savvy advice.

    Elizabeth Haypenny, it troubles me that you found my response “dismissive.” I certainly do feel compassion for Embarrassed, and, within the limited space of this column, I aim to give helpful advice. I consulted an additional expert about your comment — Paul Nyirjesy, MD, Drexel University Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Director of the Drexel Vaginitis Center and a national expert in gynecologic infections. He said this:

    “There’s a whole list of things that could cause vaginal malodor, and in approximately one third of women who seek help for this, no cause is identified. The management of genital odor beyond common vaginal infections remains poorly studied.

    “We use boric acid capsules (not douches) specifically for certain types of yeast infections and as an adjunct to treatment for bacterial vaginosis. Because boric acid douches are more dilute, it’s not clear if they do anything, which is why I don’t know a single expert who uses them. Might boric acid douches be helping the reader through some sort of nonspecific effect? Maybe. We don’t know.

    “However, when the reader says that boric acid restores the normal vaginal pH, she is incorrect. It sounds intuitive that it lowers pH, but websites and literature that state that boric acid works by lowering the pH are wrong. Boric acid is a weak acid, and it equilibrates in the vagina to a pH of 5 or 5.5 (which is higher than the normal pH in premenopausal women of 4-4.5). In fact, when I check pH on women who are using boric acid, the pH is always high, except for in those patients who are non-compliant. In an 84 year old woman who probably has a high pH because she is menopausal, boric acid probably will not affect her pH one way or the other, but I would not expect it to lower it.

    “On the other hand, there is no evidence that boric acid, either in a douche or capsules, causes severe harm (it can cause discharge, irritation, burning). There is essentially no information on long-term safety, so my last sentence should be interpreted with caution. Douching itself can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, although an 84 year old would be at low risk for this.”

    — Joan

    1. I am glad to hear that Luvena works well for you. I think it is important to note that the company has been told by the FDA to discontinue the claims that they make about the product and that there are lawsuits against them because some women get quite irritated by the polypropylene glycol or the PEG-12 in it and because the product has not gone through the irritation testing required by the FDA there is no way to know if these products are safe for most vulvas. The company is currently getting around the FDA regulations by suggesting the product be used externally only but that does not mean they have proven that it won’t cause irritation.

      We recommend always using only water to wash the vulva. Scented products and soaps, antibacterial cleaners and some moisturizing soaps can cause a lot of irritation, as you point out. I am glad the Emerita works for you and I recommend to everyone to go with just a water rinse if at all possible.

      1. I’m so sorry – I got my products mixed up! I’m using Luvena ENHANCED PERSONAL MOISTURIZER. The liquid one in the pump. The Restorative Vaginal Moisturizer in the pre-filled individual applicators is something totally different – & does burn with internal application. I don’t recommend that one! I’d not heard about their lawsuit, but a quick search found the false advertising claims about “preventing infection.” Maybe it works for me because I’m using it for moisture & odor; completely different things.

        Unfortunately, a water wash isn’t enough for me – between regular exercise & the lovely hot flashes, I sweat too much – so the Emerita wash is a lifesaver. If water only does the trick, you are lucky indeed!

      2. Bathing with a cup and a half of baking soda helps make the smell subside. A nutritionist told me about this old remedy and it has helped greatly, but I have to take a bath every other day to keep the smell at bay. I’d love more non invasive, drip free options as I completely empathize with the authors hesitation with oral sex.

    1. I had this problem and went to my Gyn and she prescribed Premarin vaginal cream 0.5 G 3 times a week. After 3 doses the odor disappeared and I am fine now, thank Heaven. I also found out that if you get numerous bladder infections that can be caused by a lack of estrogen and was put on Premarin vaginal cream which also took care of it. The amount of estrogen in this cream is very small so I feel safe using it. I hope this helps you or anyone else who has this problem .

      1. Premarin is from mare’s urine. Doctors should not even be prescribing it any more! It was found to be the source of the increase in breast cancer in the 80s. There are natural alternatives.

      2. Premarin is made w/ mares’ urine. This product means back to back breeding for horses , confinement and removing their foals as ‘byproducts’. Horrible. Please research it.

  22. It took me years, and a painful divorce, to finally find a the cause and treatment for the horrible “fishy” smell I was plagued with for years. Bacteria vaginosis was the underlying cause of the recurring odor and I was finally able to get it under control with a prescription from a physician who took the time to diagnose me correctly and daily supplements of Acidophilus tablets. Now that I understand my bodies ph levels and how stress can excaserbate symptoms I feel like a person again. I absolutely understand this woman’s feelings, have listened to my “soul mate” tell me he couldn’t handle the smell and how it lingered so badly other people commented. I was ashamed and embarassed believing I had poor hygiene habits! This is treatable and I thank her for bringing this topic forward.

    1. Your comment about Premarin is incorrect. Studies only show that estrogen will increase growth of estrogen dependent cancers. It has not show to cause cancer. Progestin has been most associated with breast cancer but not to a large degree. As far as being made from pregnant horse urine, that is correct, thus the name Pre Mar In… But the pills are made in 125 steps so the ingredient women need, the estrogen component, has been painstakingly gathered and put into a medicine that has enhanced the quality of women’s lives for decades. I think if my research is correct it is over 75 years old. Women’s bodies operate on estrogen, so sad that many go without and suffer the consequences.

      1. What about the cruelty to the horses and their fouls shipped live to Japan for sushi? We h ave much better sources today..Look to your veggies etc..The way we were supposed to live, from the beginning of time…Tells you what our diet should be in the first chapers of the Bible..=*..*=

  23. Elizabeth,

    You are correct that it is the change in pH that makes the smell change. Yes, a strategy to reduce the vaginal pH is appropriate; that is what Rephresh does.

    The issue with using a boric acid douche is that there is no perfect recipe and if you use a solution that is concentrated it can cause a burning sensation, especially in women who have very severe atrophic vaginitis that has resulted in tears in the skin.

    Many pre-made douche products on the market have scents in them and other products that disrupt the vaginal environment even more severely. That is why we generally suggest that women not douche; most women will not make their own solution and will instead purchase something at the drugstore. That’s where a challenging situation can get worse. Douching too often can also remove the protective lipids on the surface of the skin and dry that skin out even more. That is not something that a woman with severe dryness wants to do.

    Am I going to say that YOU should never douche with boric acid? No. But if someone wants to try this then I suggest being very careful about the concentration, not doing it more than 2 times per week, and discontinuing the practice if there is any pain, burning or irritation. I would prefer that you insert a small amount of a pH balanced (pH of 4.5-5/2) moisturizing lubricant and that you practice internal vaginal massage on a regular basis to encourage blood flow to the vaginal skin that will push the vaginal pH down to pre-menopausal levels.

    I am happy you have found something that works for you. I am reluctant to recommend it to a wider audience because it does take some skill to use it and not create more problems. Good for you for finding the balance that works best for you. Since everyone is very different in how their body chemistry works I encourage every woman to explore a variety of options that make sense and to be careful to not cause irritation that could start a chain of vulvar or vaginal reactions that end up being worse than the original problem.

    1. Progestin is a synthetic form of bio-identical progesterone. It takes up progesterone receptors, and progesterone is the only hormone that balances out estradiol (E2) – the latter in excess is a contributor to many cancers of the reproductive system (including breast). When receptors are taken up by a “fake progesterone” the God-made progesterone cannot counter estrogen -and thus we begin a hormonal imbalance that can contribute to dis-ease. Fortunately, I have knowledgeable doctors who would not prescribe Premarin after the Million Women Study in the early 2000s.

      Premarin, I believe, was the product used in the study -and as commented it is PROGESTIN – the synthetic form of progesterone (synthetics is how Big Pharma makes their money). Women in the study, which was intended to go 10 years, were having health issues including cancers – and the study was halted 5 yrs premature.

      If Progestin is being prescribed and working , I suggest finding a doctor who would prescribe a compounding bio-identical hormone, or a bio-identical progesterone cream. However, at our age we can by shy of estrogen – which can contribute to odor… having a test for hormones: estrogens (of which there are three types), progesterone, and perhaps even cortisol would be a start in getting answers.

      1. Hi Ladies, My OB/GYN doctor put me on hormones when I was in my 40’s due to heavy bleeding, and spotting between my periods when I lifted something heavy. I was on them for 12 years and felt young, happy and healthy. After the big scare in 2002 I went off them in July of 2003. By the Spring of 2004 I was exhausted and tired so much of the time I ended up retiring from teaching that Spring. Looking back, I would have stayed on them or gone to plant based hormones because my quality of life sadly just really declined. Besides, my doc told me the test which put the world in a frenzy was for the regular dosage of hormones, mine was the lowest dosage. So TV and all of media withheld pertinent information (fake news). My mother had breast cancer in her 60’s but NEVER took any hormones, so how does one account for that ? One of her good friends and the friends daughter did too, who both died from it (mom lived to 91). Could quality of life be more important than living to be old? You also might want to check into DIM which is a natural product made of cuciferous veggies. I don’t have the answers, only my experience. I was on plant based hormones until a nurse practicioner told me “estrogen is estrogen”. I turned “Chicken” and went off them too. (By the way, I take Armour Thyroid for slow thryoid it’s made from pigs and works, so horses urin, I don’t know, but it worked for me.) I began my 80th year January 9, 2021, so maybe I’ll live my good life to be 91 like my mom. Also, my critical thinking skills tell me that the strong smell, we ladies get is because we get dry skin, dry mouth, dry vagina etc. which causes the vaginal discharge to get more concentrated and stronger smelling.
        Best of luck in your journey.
        ……Pepper

  24. Joan Price is almost always right on, but this time I feel she is not really listening to the reader. I have this problem myself; it didn’t appear until my 84th year, and believe me, I know that there is no identifiable infection and the stink is HORRID. No latex barrier is going to remove that odor – and the very idea of a barrier between the flesh and the tongue is abhorrent anyway – for the male a major pleasure is both the taste and the smell of vaginal fluids (attested to by many, including my own lovers in the past). A modicum of googling reveals that the horrid odor is a common problem for old women and it is extremely inhibiting, and so far I haven’t found anyone who seems to know precisely what causes it. It seems likely to me that some microorganisms are involved that the aged vagina is susceptible to.

    Also, I don’t understand the widespread view that douching is a no-no. A boric acid douche restores normal vaginal pH and cures common infections like vaginosis. It also takes care of that nasty odor we’re talking about for several days. The odor comes back but in the meantime you’re free, and I suspect that the aged vagina loses its ability to maintain a normal pH, which then allows the odor-causing microorganisms to thrive, and the boric acid takes care of that until the vagina loses it pH again. So until I can find a better solution, I’ll use boric acid. I have never had any reason to suspect it does any harm, regardless of wrong-headed medical dogma that dies hard.

    Joan, your column is usually a treasure of understanding, compassion, sanity, good sense, and solid information, the best there is. But in this case you went off the tracks and I think you were dismissive of your reader’s concerns and didn’t really do enough researching.

      1. Deborah, I am only 32 and not menopausal, but I have used boric acid after my period due to odor. I bought a bottle of medical grade boric acid on Amazon plus a bag of empty cellulose pill capsules. I just scoop up some of the powder into the capsule and insert. It’s a bit messy coming out, so I usually do it at night and wear a pad to catch it – or insert a menstrual cup for the same purpose. I do not douche as I was always taught that douches can result in infection by pushing bacteria farther up. I don’t know why I have odor after my period, but I assume hormones and the shed uterine lining have a negative effect on pH balance or possibly microorganisms in that area.

    1. Hi, I have the very strong fishy smelling vaginal discharge like you ladies mentioned since my mensus stopped. Disgusting ! ! ! odor.
      However: When we built our house before we married I had a Bidet’ installed in our master bathroom’s toilet-room. A Bidet’ is a floor/sit-down sink for feminine hygiene. I suds and rinse my genital area TWICE each time I wash it which does the job for about 12 hours. When I shower or bathe in a bath tub I suds and rinse the area TWICE too. Some days I do a partial bath which is, I bathe just my face, fanny, and feet . I would not be without my bidet, it is well worth the cost. I found my Bidet’ is versatile too. I can do a pedicure, soak my sore foot after bunion surgery, etc. (It’s a sink! and it works for me.) yea ! ! I still hate the strong smell after the 12 hours, but 12 is better than none :( I do have the Luna genital deodorant but not impressed with it. Douching with warm water and 1Tblespoon of Iodoral in addition to above is a positive too. (no such thing as the “Golden Years”!) …….Pepper :)

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