Body odor can be one of the many changes you may experience during pregnancy. Some women may be able to manage it with dietary and lifestyle changes, whereas some require a doctor’s attention.
Body odor does not always indicate an unpleasant or abnormal smell; it could also be the normal odor due to sweating. In this MomJunction post, we talk about the reasons behind pregnancy body odor and measures you can take to deal with it.
Is It Normal To Have Body Odor During Pregnancy?
The basal metabolic rate increases during pregnancy, improving your blood flow and body temperature. This makes the sweat glands active and may increase the amount of sweat produced (1). Also, some women may develop a heightened sense of smell during pregnancy (2). These two factors could make it easier for pregnant women to pick up their body odor, even if it is just the normal smell of sweat.
What Causes Body Odor During Pregnancy?
Body odor may change during pregnancy and remain until the first few months after delivery. Here are a few reasons that could cause a strong body odor.
- Hormonal changes: Increased levels of sex hormones, especially estradiol and progesterone, may heighten your sense of smell (3). They are likely to cause a stronger odor in the genital and armpit regions, which could be the reason you smell your body odor.
- Increased sweating: The increasing body weight and the extra weight you are carrying can insulate the body, keeping you warmer. Because of this, you may tend to sweat more, even in colder climates (4). Sweat is odorless, but when it settles on the body, it could promote bacterial growth and create a bad odor.
- Dietary changes: The food you eat may also affect the composition of the body. Seafood could affect the sweat and vaginal discharge, red meat may affect the body odor, and sulfur in certain vegetables (such as cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli) gets absorbed by the bloodstream, giving out a foul odor (5).
- Vaginal discharge: Increased blood supply in pregnancy could alter pH levels in the vagina that may cause a distinct odor. But if the smell accompanies abnormal discharge, burning or itching sensation, it could be a sign of vaginal infection (6).
Natural Ways To Deal With Body Odor During Pregnancy
You may not be able to get rid of pregnancy body odor entirely, but you could limit it to some extent with these measures (7).
- Bath twice a day: Take a relaxing bath two times a day using a mild anti-bacterial soap. Also, dry yourself using a clean towel before you put on your clothes. Also, wash your hair whenever it feels greasy.
- Trim your hair: Trim or shave the hair in your genitals and armpits to prevent bacterial growth and body odor. Trimming may also make the cleaning the genitals easy.
- Stay hydrated: Drink more water as it could control body odor, and also flush away toxins from the body.
- Wear the right clothing: Wear cotton fabrics that are breathable and could reduce your body temperature. Also, do not wear the same clothes after the shower. Do not use polyester and rayon clothing. Soak undergarments and socks in vinegar water to remove any bad odor.
- Eat right: Avoid smelly foods such as onions and garlic. Eat more fruits and vegetables as they give less offensive odor.
- Keep your vagina clean: Maintain vaginal hygiene by washing the area with plain and unscented cleansers. This helps in maintaining the bacteria and pH levels in the vaginal area (8).
- Deodorants and antiperspirants: You may use a mild smelling deodorant or a talcum powder to smell good and reduce sweat. You may also use baby wipes to wipe the sweat from your armpits, under the breasts, and bikini area.
These measures are likely to be safe and will not harm you or your unborn baby.
When To See A Doctor?
Consult a doctor if the body odor does not get better with home care tips. Consult a doctor if you (9):
- Experience a change in the body odor
- Suddenly start sweating excessively
- Find the body odor intolerable
The doctor may suggest a treatment to control the odor to an extent.
Treatment For Body Odor
If you have a bad body odor, your doctor may suggest the following treatment measures.
- Antiperspirants, which reduce the amount of sweat and inhibit the flow of sweat to the skin’s surface.
- Deodorants, which minimize the odor caused by perspiration (9).
- Medicated soaps, which remove odor-causing bacteria.
Next, we answer some common queries about body odor in pregnancy.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can body odor predict the baby’s sex?
There is an old age belief saying that eating a clove of garlic could help determine the baby’s sex. If you stink, it indicates that it is a boy, and if you do not stink, it could be a girl. This is an old wives’ tale and has no scientific basis.
2. Is body odor an early sign of pregnancy?
The heightened sense of smell is an early sign of pregnancy. Therefore, you may smell your body odor because of your increased olfactory ability (10).
3. Do I develop a fishy smell when I get pregnant?
You may experience a fishy odor from the vaginal area due to infections, such as bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, or sexually transmitted diseases (11). Poor hygiene or tight clothing, combined with excessive sweating, may also result in fishy body odor.
Body odor in pregnancy may continue even after the baby is born until the hormones settle down. While some may get rid of the odor soon after delivery, others may take several weeks as breastfeeding might also affect the hormones. But know that it is temporary and not a matter of concern until it is severe and extended.
2. Dr.Karima Elshamy; Body Temperature; Faculty of Nursing; Mansoura University Egypt
3. Ninthujah Kanageswaran et al.; Modulatory Effects of Sex Steroids Progesterone and Estradiol on Odorant Evoked Responses in Olfactory Receptor Neurons; PLoS One (2016)
4. Antenatal Care Module: 7. Physiological Changes During Pregnancy; The Open University (2020)
5. Dena Champion; 5 foods and drinks that affect body odor; The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (2019)
6. Vaginal itching and discharge – adult and adolescent; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health
7. Sweating and Body Odor: Care and Treatment; Cleveland Clinic
8. Keeping your vagina clean and healthy; NHS (2018)
9. Body odour (BO); NHS (2019)
10. E. Leslie Cameron; Pregnancy And Olfaction: A Review; US National Library Of Medicine
11. Vaginitis (Diseases characterized by vaginal discharge); A.T. Still University
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