Recent press coverage on low libido in post-menopausal women and the call for testosterone therapy on the NHS has brought the subject of vaginal dryness back into focus.
It is clear that hormones play a key role in the desire for sex and intimacy as we get older, but for many women the symptom that causes so much distress in the bedroom is vaginal dryness.
Dr Louise Newson, GP and menopause specialist, attended the 15th World Congress on Menopause in Prague recently and tweeted that there are 50 million women in the EU with symptoms of vaginal dryness and over half of them suffer in silence for three years before asking for treatment. She admits herself, that even as a doctor, she did not recognise her own symptoms as being related to menopause.
In these days of social media obsession, where we share so much with our friends, how sad it is that we don’t talk about this issue which can have such a huge impact on our lives. A recent Twitter competition to win free lubricant for following and re-tweeting the post resulted in just one entry, presumably because no one wanted others to know that they might want to win a product that would not only help with vaginal dryness but would also enhance their sex life!
When I reached menopausal age I thought back to a holiday I had with my parents in the USA when my mother must have been about 51 years old. I remember her wanting to open the window as we sped down the highways because she was too hot. She also dashed into air-conditioned shops in New York whenever a hot flush rendered her into a soggy mess, but she didn’t talk to me about this from that day onwards.
When I started to experience some perimenopausal urinary symptoms my urologist never suggested that they might be related to oestrogen depletion – I had to discover that for myself and only when I found a sympathetic uro-gynaecologist was the link between lack of oestrogen, vaginal dryness and urinary symptoms fully explained.
My very sensitive, patient and loving husband was as surprised as I was at the symptoms that I was experiencing. He is now extremely knowledgeable about all female intimate health issues but still says that “menopausal vaginal dryness is the best kept secret after Father Christmas” – sadly the revelation when it comes, is a lot less pleasant than the stocking at the end of the bed!
We need to talk to our daughters as they approach menopause and we need to talk to our friends, and our partners need to talk to their friends, too. There is help but you may need to go to your doctor with a clear idea of how you want to approach the challenge of dealing with the symptoms of menopause. There are plenty of natural solutions and organic lubricants and moisturisers can help with vaginal dryness on a daily basis and make sex more comfortable without compromising vaginal health with potentially harmful chemical ingredients.
It is not only menopausal women that suffer from vaginal dryness. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and breast feeding can also affect lubrication, as can the contraceptive pill, anti-depressants, stress, hysterectomy and treatment for cancer.
The more we talk about it, the more empowered we can all become to take control of our intimate health throughout our lives, and enjoy healthy and active sex lives well into our later years.