If your hair color isn’t the only thing changing on your body, you certainly aren’t alone. As we age, pregnancy, lifestyle, and hormonal changes affect our skin, hair, and even the *ahem* lady parts. But if you’re suffering in silence, don’t be ashamed! The changes you may be facing are more common than you realize. Here are some tips to help you get your groove back.
As we age, the delicate tissue around our urethra (the tube from the bladder to the outside that carries urine) becomes thinner and more sensitive. This can happen because of changes in our hormone levels and make the body more susceptible to urinary tract infections. Staying well-hydrated, following the age-old advice of “front to back” wiping and urinating after intercourse can help you avoid those pesky UTIs.
Over time, post-pregnancy and perimenopause affect estrogen levels. As we age, our estrogen levels begin to decline, leading to an increase in vaginal dryness and a loss of elasticity of vaginal tissue. For some women, this dryness can lead to irritation and even discomfort in public settings. If you're suffering from this, you are absolutely not alone.
Our "lady parts" or reproductive structures are held in place by a group of muscles and tendons known as the pelvic floor. As we age, go through childbirth, experience changes in our weight and even regularly participate in high-impact workouts, these muscles sag and give us a feeling of bulging or heaviness. This is also what may lead to urine leakage when we cough or sneeze. The best remedy for this is the good ol’ Kegels. This exercise helps to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and tightens the muscle fibers, helping to create more stability and strength. If you find that you are regularly doing Kegels and this area is still impacted, speak with your physician about other options. You may be a candidate for a supportive device or require a procedure.
These are not necessarily the type of infections you are thinking. When levels of estrogen and progesterone shift and eventually decrease (usually in our 30s and 40s), the pH levels and tissue thickness change in the vaginal canal and around the vaginal opening. This change makes us more susceptible to infections like bacterial vaginosis, which can cause a sour odor and white discharge. This is not a sexually transmitted infection; however, it can be a pesky irritation. Adding a moisturizer or lubricant and eliminating sweaty clothes post exercise can help. Although yeast infection incidence does not necessarily go up as we age, protecting the vagina from this annoying itch is also important. You can do this by regularly eating yogurt or taking a probiotic supplement and sticking to those cotton undies.
If you notice any symptoms that are not improving, schedule a visit with your physician. She can help determine what is causing your discomfort and offer you a variety of solutions that might be quicker and easier than you think.
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