Many of the symptoms of menopause can ebb and flow over time and we can often get a break from the intensity of symptoms by tweaks we make to our life style and/or medication. There is one symptom though that does not get better with time unless we proactively take steps to address it and possibly worse is the fact that we are not talking about it...AT ALL. I am finding women are not discussing this major symptom even with their closest friends and very often not even with their GP.
Yes it is the subject I have been raving on about on social media for the last while and one that needs to be talked about more. It is a taboo within a taboo if that is even possible....the dryness that can hit your body from top to toe as you progress from Perimenopause onto Menopause. Let's say it loud and clear so we start talking...Vaginal Dryness.
What is Vaginal Atrophy ? What really is Vaginal Dryness?
Vaginal Atrophy (atrophic vaginitis) is the thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal walls that can occur during perimenopause/menopause as oestrogen reserves decline. Vaginal atrophy is also referred to as vaginal dryness and both refer to the same condition - with perimenopause comes the gradual decline in oestrogen - this has a direct impact on the tissues that respond to oestrogen. We are well versed in the changes to the menstrual cycle we see as the uterine lining changes and eventually periods stop. It's not just the uterine lining that gets thinner but also the tissues of the vagina and the vulva as they too rely on oestrogen. The supply of oestrogen before perimenopause ensures the vaginal tissues are thick, moist and elastic, when the levels of oestrogen start to decline these tissues become thinner, less elastic and more susceptible to friction and in essence are more easily injured. Think of oestrogen as being your internal lubrication for all areas of your body. The drop in oestrogen reduces this much needed lubrication and these changes can cause vaginal dryness, itchiness, UTI's (urinary tract infections), more frequent toilet breaks, painful smears/sex and loads more symptoms.
Vaginal Dryness happens to 1 in 3 women in their lifetime
What to look out for:
Natural Oils & Vitamins:
Personal Choices: It is important to remember that your vulva may need extra moisturiser and/or lubricant - what you use here is a matter of personal choice. Many women report different success with a wide variety of products so trial and error until you find what works for you.
Smoking: if you smoke you should try stop. Smoking reduces blood circulation and your vaginal area needs a good blood flow.
Perfumed Products: Avoid perfumed toilet paper - we don't need it ! Same with sanitary pads - avoid perfumed.
Clothing: If you find your skinny jeans and underwear are uncomfortable then it is advisable to switch clothing until you have gotten a handle on the issue.
A few weeks ago I did a live chat on Instagram with Jane Lewis of My Menopausal Vagina and I will tell you it took me weeks to clear through all the comments and questions that came off the back of our chat. It has shown me yet again how big this symptom is and the one that we really need to get talking about more - Jane is doing tremendous work in the UK to open this up and we are all benefitting from this - I would highly recommend reading Jane's book - it is essential reading for all women!
I will be doing a Live Instagram with Eleanor from Yes Yes in January so keep an eye out for that and also a follow up with Jane Lewis.
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