Vaginal atrophy can be an uncomfortable and even painful condition for many menopausal women, but you don’t have to deal with it alone. Dr. Elissa Tepperman, a resident in obstetrics and gynecology at McMaster University, explains what this challenging health concern is all about and what you can do to make coping with it a little easier.
What is vaginal atrophy?
Dr. Tepperman explains that the vaginal tissues are very sensitive to estrogen, and when plenty of this hormone is around, the vaginal tissues respond by becoming plump and producing a good amount of acidic moisture. As estrogen levels decrease with menopause, the tissues become much thinner and drier, with more scant and alkaline secretions. This causes the vagina to shrink in diameter and become vulnerable to tears.
Because of the thinning of the tissues and decrease in moisture, Dr. Tepperman explains that many women describe having a dry, itchy feeling. They may also experience pain or discomfort with sexual activity. In addition, because the vagina and the bladder come from the same tissue origins, the urinary system may be affected as well. The most common complaints are of having to urinate more frequently, feeling more intense urges to urinate, loss of sleep due to having to use the washroom at night and incontinence (urine leakage).
What can you do?
Vaginal atrophy can be an uncomfortable and even painful issue. Fortunately, however, there are some things you can do. Dr. Tepperman advises that hormone therapy can provide menopausal women with relief from a variety of symptoms, including vaginal atrophy. There are some risks with this type of treatment, though, so it’s important to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor before deciding to use it. If vaginal atrophy is your main menopausal concern, Dr. Tepperman explains that low-dose local hormone therapy with vaginal estrogen creams, tablets or rings can often be effective. These methods have fewer risks and side effects than taking an oral or systemic replacement, and local estrogen can help significantly with urinary issues as well. See your doctor to decide what your best course of action is.
Small changes you can make
Vaginal atrophy is a frustrating experience, but a few products that can help with some of the symptoms are available. For many women, vaginal atrophy can lead to pain and discomfort during sexual activity. If you’re experiencing this problem, try Poise’s personal lubricant, which will provide long-lasting lubrication for your intimate moments. And if urinary leakage is a problem for you, check out Poise’s line of light bladder leak panty liners and pads. They’ll lock away the wetness and help protect against odour. Vaginal atrophy is challenging, but resources and treatments are available to you, so don’t be afraid to speak with your doctor and even get some tips from your best girlfriends!