Why Do I Sweat More and Smell Stronger Postpartum?

Postpartum Mom

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Pregnancy and the postpartum period can be a beautiful time, but it can also bring a wide variety of side effects and bodily changes. You may have an aversion to certain foods, develop acne for the first time, or experience increased sweating or body odor.

This is normal, common, and happens for a variety of reasons in the period of time after a person gives birth. “A pregnant woman gains up to 10 pounds of amniotic fluid, blood, and other fluids,” says Damian Pat Alagia III, MD, MS, MBA, medical director for women’s health at Quest Diagnostics. “Once her baby is born, the fluid needs somewhere to go. Because of this, women often experience increased sweating. This is her body’s way of flushing out these excess fluids.”

With an increase in sweat, there is a possibility for increased body odor. This is similar to when hormones change during puberty. It’s also nature’s way of helping you bond with your newborn. “A change in a woman’s postpartum scent helps direct a baby toward her for breastfeeding,” adds Dr. Alagia. “In fact, during breastfeeding, women excrete different pheromones—mix that with a baby’s saliva and it can cause an odor that may be new and unfamiliar to the woman.”

We spoke to multiple experts to discuss why this change occurs, how to best manage these sometimes unpleasant or unsettling symptoms, and when you can expect them to subside.

What Causes Postpartum Sweating and Odor?

There are a few key reasons for increased sweat and scent postpartum.

“Hormonal changes are dramatic in the postpartum period, with a rapid drop in estrogen and progesterone and rise in prolactin in order to produce milk,” explains Banafsheh Bayati, MD, OB/GYN, FACOG, a board-certified OB/GYN practicing in Santa Monica, Calif., and the medical co-founder of Perelel. “These hormonal shifts are needed for milk production but will also impact your mood, hair, libido, and body odor."

While your milk production is increasing, you may notice more sweating, particularly at night. You will also notice vaginal discharge that smells and looks different from a typical menstrual period.

“The postpartum body brings smells that may be confused with sweat-related body odor,” says Dr. Alagia. “This includes a vaginal discharge called lochia, which is a mix of amniotic fluid, tissue, and blood. It usually passes through the vagina up to six weeks post-birth.”

It’s important to note that you can have postpartum vaginal discharge even if you didn’t have a vaginal birth.

In the fourth trimester, your senses will be heightened. “Pregnant and postpartum women have an altered sense of smell and taste and thus are more acutely aware of body odor changes that may be less obvious to others,” says Dr. Bayati. “The baby also has a keen sense of smell and the pheromones and body odor may be important signals for the new mom/infant bonding and imprinting time.”

In addition to the fluids your body is trying to shed after giving birth, the physical and emotional toll of having a newborn can also affect your scent. “Exhaustion doesn't help, as for many women, it leads to increases in stress hormones, anxiety, and the like that contribute to sweating and odor,” says Christina Burns, L.Ac, FABORM, founder of Naturna and doctor of Chinese medicine.

The good news is this is normal for a postpartum period and these changes in your sweat and body odor won’t last forever. They'll subside once your hormones balance back about, and that timetable will vary from person to person. “This would depend a lot on whether breastfeeding is involved and when the period comes back,” says Dr. Burns. “Once you see your cycle restored, it means hormones are in the mix; no period means estrogen and progesterone are low.”

Managing Odor and Sweat

There are numerous ways to manage these less-than-pleasant symptoms, from a good deodorant to regular hot showers (be them long and relaxing or quick five-minute rinse while baby naps). “Even though these smells are normal, it is understandable that a woman doesn’t want to smell,” says Dr. Alagia. “Good hygiene is important in helping to eliminate smells.”

A new parent is not only going through a period of immense stress and a tremendous change, but they may also be responsible for providing food to the infant.

“Hydration is key postpartum for both milk production and to help flush out toxins and dilute the odors from your body,” says Dr. Bayati. “While you are sweating more to release the extra fluid buildup during pregnancy and labor, you need to replenish the extra loss to avoid headaches, constipation, underproduction of milk supply, and even stronger body odor.”

It can be hard when you’re running on just a few hours of sleep to eat healthy and drink water, but dietary changes can also hurt or help this postpartum symptom. “Try to reduce or eliminate things that cause an increase in odor and sweating—caffeine (especially coffee), stress, anxiety, garlic, onion, big portions of foods, refined sugars and carbs, and alcohol,” Dr. Burns advises.

It’s also not a great idea to add in a bunch of heavily scented lotions, detergents, or deodorants to your arsenal to try to mask the smell. It could backfire and lead to an allergic reaction for you or your baby. It's best to look for a deodorant that isn't aluminum-based and is fragrance-free, suggests Dr. Burns.

When to Worry

Certain smells, albeit annoying, are fairly harmless. “There is not usually a cause for concern with underarm odor,” says Dr. Burns. “It signifies low hormones, an imbalance of stress, and digestive system issues. None are [usually] life-threatening.” She instead suggests treating them with a healthy diet, as must rest as possible, cutting back on caffeine, and trying to minimize processed foods.

“Every new mom should be in contact with their postpartum provider frequently in this fourth trimester,” says Dr. Bayati. She recommends speaking or visiting your healthcare provider two weeks postpartum as well as between six and eight weeks if things are going well.

“Although odor concerns are very common, fevers, worsening bleeding, pus at suture sites, or increasing pain is not normal,” says Dr. Bayati. “If the odor is accompanying such complaints, then you need to reach out to your provider.”

Chills, trouble breathing, dizziness, or fainting are also signs to reach out to your medical provider right away.

While vaginal discharge is normal and expected, it’s important to pay attention to any changes, especially once you have resumed having sex. “Body odors, especially those associated with vaginal discharge, may be related to a urinary tract infection, bacterial vaginosis, a yeast infection, or even a sexually transmitted disease,” says Dr. Alagia.

Finally, be mindful of your mental health as well as your physical health. “The lack of motivation to shower and practice good hygiene may be a result of postpartum depression—that warrants a doctor’s visit as well,” says Dr. Alagia.

A Word From Verywell

Smelling stronger or differently and sweating more postpartum is normal. It's often due to hormonal disruptions and the shedding of the amniotic fluid, blood, and tissue that developed in your womb over nine months of pregnancy. Regular showers, drinking lots of water, and eating a healthy diet can help to alleviate these symptoms.

If you have signs of an infection, such as pain, bleeding, fevers, chills, or pus, reach out to your healthcare provider. Otherwise, any excess odor should resolve itself in a few months. Talk to your primary care provider or OB/GYN if you have additional questions.

 

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