The challenges range from having to take extra care of the face, using lotions to nourish the skin, the hair and looking out for other health issues.
Vaginal odour also plagues many women, especially in summer.
The bad odour, sometimes referred to as a “fishy smell”, is very unpleasant and embarrassing, too.
Obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Thandi Mtsi, who works at the Park Lane Clinic in Johannesburg, says if a woman’s vagina smells, there is something radically wrong.
“The vagina is very low maintenance and does not need fancy stuff to clean it and to stop it from smelling. The vagina has an organism called lactobacillus that helps it to have a low ph or acidic level,” she explains.
Mavis (age 28 and not her real name) of Centurion, Gauteng, says she emits a fishy smell when she menstruates.
“It’s embarrassing. I’ve tried using scented panty liners and pads, but that doesn’t help,” she says.
Mtsi explains that lactobacillus keeps all the organisms that cause infections away. Disturbing this by overzealous cleaning or the overuse of antibiotics will destroy the lactobacillus. That will allow the growth of abnormal bugs and a condition called bacterial vaginosis, which is characterised by a fishy smell.
Mavis says she has a bath twice a day and does not understand why the fishy smell persists.
Thuli (18) of Sebokeng, in the Vaal, says she smelt fishy for a few months and it disappeared after she visited a clinic.
“It smelt like something was rotten, but the smell went away when I was treated. I was dating old men for a few months and I suspect that was the problem,” she says.
Mtsi says the causes of vaginal odour include poor hygiene, vaginal infections, abnormal lesions, warts, polyps, cancer, the use of snuff, forgotten tampons and condoms.
“Other causes include destruction of the normal flora, poor toilet habits such as wiping from anus to the vagina, thereby getting faeces and urine into the vagina,” Mtsi says.
She explains that smelly vaginas affect women from different age groups, but it is most common in women who are sexually active.
“Vaginal smell can also occur in elderly and postmenopausal women due to lack of oestrogen, resulting in atrophic vaginitis.
“In this group, there could also be contamination due to incontinence, both urinary and faecal,” she says.
Mtsi says to prevent vaginal smells, women need to improve their overall hygiene and keep it natural down there.
Twenty-five-year-old Naledi, of Soshanguve, Pretoria, says after she gave birth to her first child, she started smelling funny.
“The clinic put me on antibiotics and I was fine after the treatment. I remember people used to call me Fish Eagle because I smelt like a fish.”
Talking about treatment, Dr Thandi Mtsi says: “Women who suffer from this condition only need to be put on a course of antibiotics.
“Women who constantly douche should stop because it does more harm than good,” Mtsi concludes.