Most women, myself included, thought that menopause was just some hot flushes, heavy periods, go slightly bonkers for a few years & then life returns to normal (or whatever normal is). Of course some sail through menopause like a breeze, but the majority suffer to various degrees.
One of the symptoms you may hear about is vaginal dryness. It sounds nicer than the other names, but vaginal dryness for many women is much more than a bit of dryness (although my support group is full of such ladies). Due to the vast decline in oestrogen during the menopause, the vagina, vulva, bladder & pelvic floor can really suffer. As with any condition, some suffer more than others. Vaginal atrophy effects roughly 70% of women with only roughly 7% seeking help from their GP. The symptoms are soreness, itching, burning, thinning of fragile skin that can cause old episiotomies to split, repeat UTIs, painful or impossible sex, urinary incontinence and needing to get up several times a night for the toilet. You may have one or two of these symptoms or if you’re lucky, like me, the lot!
How Vaginal Atrophy Can Affect You
Activities that were once loved can become impossible. Horse riding, bike riding, sitting or wearing jeans can all become painful. Ultimately your mental health can be affected due to the symptoms and the fact it’s such a ‘hush hush’ side of menopause can make women feel they can’t confide in others. Women who have had chemotherapy or are breastfeeding can be also be affected, and certain medications can also cause vaginal dryness.
There are treatments available to help, such as local oestrogen, HRT, & good quality moisturisers for internal & external use. It’s really important that women become “vulva” aware. Examine yourself once a month with a hand-held mirror and look and feel for any abnormalities. It’s very important not to self treat & miss conditions such as lichen sclerosis or vulva cancer. If you are worried then see your GP.
Vaginal atrophy can’t be CURED it’s a lifetime of MANAGEMENT. Knowledge is power. My vaginal atrophy was so bad that I decided to co-write a book with my daughter Penny (I gave her the material needed & she is the author) called ‘Me & My Menopausal Vagina’.
Hopefully, this will help those going through it not feel so alone and educate the next generations without scaring them! From the reviews, emails and messages I receive, we seem to have accomplished this.
Follow Jane on Instagram: @my_menopause_vagina
Visit her website: www.mymenopausalvagina.co.uk