Vaginal discharge in a post-menopausal woman could be perfectly normal or the sign of a serious infection. Various causes for a foul-smelling discharge after menopause could require medical treatment. Diagnosis occurs in a doctor's office and may involve a Pap test or other tests to determine the exact cause of the foul-smelling discharge post-menopause.
Normal Vaginal Changes in Menopause
During menopause, a woman's body, including her vagina, undergoes some changes that are perfectly normal. For instance, because of lowering levels of estrogen, vaginal walls thin and a woman may experience dryness or soreness. This normal change caused by menopause is called vaginal atrophy. If bothered by these symptoms, a woman can use lubricant or vaginal moisturizers to continue to feel comfortable and carry on a normal sex life post-menopause. Because of the risks associated with hormone replacement therapy, including an increased risk of stroke, breast cancer, and high blood pressure, a woman may wish to discuss relieving these symptoms of vaginal discomfort by more natural methods.
Changes in Vaginal Discharge
After menopause, a woman may experience a change in her normal vaginal discharge as a result of the vaginal atrophy. She may also notice a difference in smell in the discharge due to changes in lifestyle, diet or personal hygiene. None of these changes should cause alarm. One way to know if personal hygiene is disrupting the vagina's natural discharge is to discontinue douching, bubble baths and scented body washes for a time. A woman may ask her doctor for answers if the changes seem more pronounced or bothersome and persist over time.
Causes of Foul-Smelling Discharge Post-Menopause
Vaginal discharge with significantly unpleasant odor, or that causes itching or burning, is not normal and should be checked by a doctor. Foul-smelling discharge may be a symptom of chlamydia or gonorrhea, two sexually transmitted diseases that can be passed along to sexual partners and cause serious medical problems when not treated promptly. Another sexually transmitted disease, trichomoniasis, is caused by a parasite, and creates a strongly scented vaginal discharge that is greenish yellow.
Bacterial vaginosis, which is more common in women who have multiple sexual partners, produces a fishy-smelling discharge that can be white, grayish or yellow in color. A vaginal yeast infection produces a change in the consistency of vaginal discharge, but is normally odorless.
Allergies to bathing products can also cause vaginal changes and discomfort. This situation can be remedied simply by using unscented or hypoallergenic products.
Certain serious medical conditions like diabetes cause vaginal changes. Because a foul-smelling vaginal discharge may be a sign of a serious medical condition like an infection, or a system-wide problem like a hormone imbalance or cancer, a woman should see her doctor to determine the exact cause of the problem.