Vaginal dryness is the great unspoken menopause symptom, yet a simple, easy treatment could reduce pain, reinvigorate your sex life and enhance your relationship.
Vaginal Dryness is the Secret Symptom of the Menopause.
Gynaecologist Edward Morris, chair of the British Menopause Society (BMS), says: “It’s rarely mentioned in consultations, even though vaginal atrophy, which results in vaginal dryness, affects all women during and after the menopause. Embarrassment, modesty or the mistaken belief that nothing can be done mean many women suffer in silence – yet simple treatmentscan change their lives.”
Vaginal atrophy, the reduction in stretchability and function of the vagina, is caused by falling oestrogen levels. The walls of the vagina get thinner and less elastic and lubrication is reduced, resulting in dryness, higher risk of irritation, reduced resistance to urinary and vaginal infections, and painful intercourse.
“Vaginal dryness can mean that a woman unconsciously associates intercourse with pain, which can reduce her libido and lead to conflict and relationship problems,” says Morris.
There is Treatment Out There
Yet treatment is simple. Prescribed products include vaginal oestrogen creams, or tiny oestrogen tablets that stick to the vaginal walls and deliver a more reliable dose. While both contain enough oestrogen to restore the vagina to its former condition and reduce the risk of infections, a year’s cumulative dosage of the tablets is only the equivalent of one tablet of HRT. Women can use them for as long as they choose. A new orally-taken tablet should be available in the UK soon.
Over-the-counter products such as vaginal moisturisers and sexual lubricants can also help, as can avoiding potential irritants such as perfumed soaps, bath products and vaginal deodorants, and rinsing the vulval area thoroughly. Creams designed to ease irritation may contain preservatives which irritate some women, but swapping to ointments, which have less preservatives, can help, says Morris.