Happy Sunday everyone!
Well, it’s already that time again – my weekly A-Z of Menopause Symptoms blog and I can’t believe that I am at V already….where have the weeks gone!
So, this week is another sensitive subject, and because of its nature often ladies just sit on it and do nothing about it, VAGINAL DRYNESS (did you see what I did there?)
Anyway, forgive me as this is not a symptom to make light of as it can be incredibly uncomfortable and, like most of the symptoms, can impact wider aspects of the suffers life.
So how come we are suffering with something like this?
Well, as with all of the other symptoms we have talked about previously, these changes are occurring due to the reduction in reproductive hormones. As you move through the transition of perimenopause to menopause, your ovaries gradually stop making the hormone Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone.
As we know, Estrogen in particular, does many things such as keeping muscles and ligaments strong and boosting collagen in your skin, which helps to keep it hydrated and supple. It is these changes that can make the walls of your vagina become thinner, drier, and less flexible and are therefore more prone to become easily irritated. This process also means that your body also produces fewer vaginal secretions, meaning that the vaginal area is less lubricated than it once was. This overall change can also affect areas close to the vagina, such as the labia, clitoris, and bladder.
So, what does this actually mean and what kind of symptoms would be experienced? Well soreness is an obvious first line indication, if you imagine the that the walls of the vagina are usually supple and lubricated, they would of course slide back and forth easily and rub together comfortably as you move. If there is no lubrication and the walls are thinning, you are going to encounter friction. Every movement would cause a chaffing between the walls, and this would quickly cause irritation and discomfort. This might feel worse if restrictive clothes are worn, such as jeans that may ride up and irritate the area further.
There may be a burning and/or itching sensation from this inflammation, leading to redness, discharge and possibly even bleeding. Many report the sensation of needing to wee more often and urinary tract infections (UTIs), especially after sex are reported as more likely. As you can imagine sex in itself can become an absolute no, no as pain, tearing or bleeding during sex can occur if the area is not well lubricated.
So, is there a vaginal dryness cure I hear you screaming?
Well, although there isn’t a cure, there are lots of treatment options. If your doctor thinks your vaginal dryness is due to the menopause, they might suggest a number of options. Vaginal moisturisers are available for use on a regular basis and water-based vaginal lubricants can be used before you have sex. Your GP can also prescribe you a hormone cream or a gel that you apply to your vagina and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as a general treatment for menopausal symptoms can address this problem too.
There are also some self-help options for vaginal dryness that you can try such as wearing cotton underwear. Cotton is breathable and getting too hot and sweaty will only irritate the area more. For this reason, it is good to sleep without underwear to allow air to circulate as much as possible.
Once again, if sex is painful, as well as lubricants, it may also help to try to enjoy more foreplay so that you feel more aroused as this will help to lubricate the area.
Pelvic floor exercises can help with strengthening the muscle walls and this may help long-term.
Where possible try to avoid scented toilet paper, tampons or pads and don’t use perfumed soaps or creams near your vagina. Additionally, don’t insert moisturisers or lubricants not designed for vaginal use.
Now, vaginal dryness really is one of those subjects that we really don’t want to present to our GP as we know they are going to want to examine us, and the embarrassment factor can be high. The trouble is the effects of this symptom really can, as they all do, have knock on effects across our whole life.
This is the kind of thing that can knock our confidence as we scratch, fidget and wriggle our way through our workday. It can prevent us wanting to wear what once was our favourite pair of jeans and suddenly only PJ’s bring relief. It can certainly effect our relationships as sex can become totally off limits and this can, over time, put a real strain on the relationship.
As you know I always have to throw in a little about stress and the negative effects that can have on both our physical and mental well-being and I can imagine that living with this symptom would be incredibly stressful and unpleasant.
I really want to encourage you to visit your GP and look at ways that this can be resolved. Try not to be embarrassed about talking to your doctor, and remember they are used to seeing all sorts of conditions. If however, you feel you need some help in finding that confidence, give ma a call today to book your free initial consultation.