The end of your childbearing years marks a significant event in your life. Monthly menstrual periods you’ve been used to for the last 30 or so years permanently cease. Your ovaries no longer release eggs and thus, you’re no longer able to get pregnant.
Menopause is said to have occurred if you haven’t experienced a period for 12 months.
While not having monthly periods anymore may be a welcome sign, but some of the effects of menopause most certainly are not. Besides a permanent halt to egg production, menopause is also characterized by a decrease in the production of certain sex hormones – the two most significant being estrogen and progesterone.
When estrogen levels drop, vaginal walls become thinner, less elastic and less lubricated. Besides the general condition of vaginal dryness, pain during sexual intercourse can occur – a condition known as dyspareunia.
Besides the discomfort, decreased lubrication in the vagina can cause bleeding and tearing of vaginal tissues during intercourse.
Many women say this is the most bothersome part of menopause. It’s pretty common too – 56% of postmenopausal women experienced vaginal dryness according to a survey by HealtyWomen, a leading independent health source exclusively for women.
Unfortunately, many women do not discuss their condition with their spouses or doctors.
According to the same survey, nearly 2/3 of women who reported pain during sexual intercourse and over half who reported vaginal dryness were somewhat embarrassed to discuss their condition. Astonishingly, nearly half of the postmenopausal women surveyed claim they hadn’t spoken with their gynecologist or other health care professional about the problem!!
Why the hesitancy? Why do many women forego discussing this issue with their gynecologist?
Survey results show two main reasons, which are about evenly split.
One is embarrassment – around 1 in 3 women with vaginal dryness and dyspareunia claim they’re embarrassed to discuss the situation with their spouse or doctor.
The other main reason is the view that nothing can be done about it (…25% of women with these conditions in fact). Many respondents are simply under the impression that there are no medical solutions available.
Over-the-counter products like Astroglide, Replens or Lubrin can provide relief. Or, your gynecologist could employ a range of vaginal estrogen therapy options, including creams, a ring or tablet.
If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness but not speaking with your gynecologist, you may be trying different things at home to get rid of the discomfort. But some things that may immediately come to mind will in fact worsen your discomfort. Items like soaps, hand lotions and bubble baths should be avoided, as well as douches like vinegar and yogurt.
While it’s impossible to stop menopause and aging from occurring, you DON’T have to live with the side effects of this major event in your life. Don’t feel afraid or embarrassed to speak with your spouse or gynecologist about this very normal side effect of menopause.
Vaginal dryness and pain during sexual intercourse are perfectly normal effects of menopause. Easy, non-surgical treatments can alleviate these effects so you can have relief during these changes.
Speak with one of our highly experienced gynecologists in Gainesville today and get relief from this common, yet burdensome side effect of your body’s changes.