Menopause occurs in women typically between the ages of 45 and 55, and is when ovaries no longer develop eggs, and thereby is the end of menstrual cycles. After twelve months without periods, a woman moves into post-menopause.
Postmenopausal Atrophic Vaginitis, or vaginal atrophy, typically happens after menopause, as the name suggests. Vaginal atrophy can also occur at other times, such as during breastfeeding, after certain cancer treatments, or after the removal of the ovaries (surgical menopause). This can also occur before menopause (perimenopausal).
Some women are more prone to atrophic vaginitis, such as women who haven’t given birth vaginally. Another high risk is for women who smoke, as this affects the blood circulation, depriving the vagina (and other tissues) of oxygen. The tissue thinning of vaginal atrophy is more likely to occur where blood flow has been restricted or decreased. Vaginal atrophy is the thinning of the vaginal walls, caused by the decreased estrogen levels. Women suffering from vaginal atrophy will also be more prone to chronic infections within their vagina, urinary issues and experience pain during sexual intercourse (penetration).
The range of symptoms of Postmenopausal Atrophic Vaginitus are:
– Thinning of the vaginal walls
– Vaginal dryness
– Incontinence (involuntary urinary leakage)
– Higher frequency of urinary tract infections (UTIs)
– Burning or pain while urinating
– Tightening and shortening of the vaginal canal
– Pain or discomfort during penetrative sex
– Spotting after intercourse
– Vaginal burning, inflammation
One of the complications that can occur from vaginal atrophy, besides the above, is that there can be a greater risk of vaginal infections as the acidity in the vagina undergoes changes. These changes to the pH levels make the vagina more susceptible to yeast infections, bacteria and other organisms forming and growing.
As with most things, vaginal atrophy must be diagnosed by your GP, and possibly referred to a gynecologist from there. There are a range of treatments they can offer, mostly through varying types of estrogen boosts. It’s worth noting here that smoking is a double edged sword when it comes to vaginal atrophy, as not only are female smokers more likely to be diagnosed with vaginal atrophy, but they are also less responsive to estrogen pills.
A doctor may also suggest wearing natural fibre underwear, as well as looser fitting, as this allows greater breath-ability and minimizes the chances of bacteria growing. However there are a few things they may not mention, or be able to recommend, and that’s where this post comes in handy. While it makes no effect on estrogen levels, regular sexual intercourse does increase blood circulation within the vagina, and helps maintain natural fluids. To help achieve these in a pain-free way, here are some items to check out.
If experiencing vaginal dryness, you can get started with a good water based lube. Agapé (a-gar-pay) is a phenomenal water based lubricant from System Jo. This non-sticky personal lubricant is long lasting and can even help your body rejuvenate its natural lubrication. Pjur Woman Nude is another great water based lube, and being part of the ‘Woman’ range, means it is pH balanced to match a woman’s flora, which may also assist in fighting against bacterial growth from your changing levels.
Given the thinning of the vaginal walls from Atrophy, penetration can be painful. Asking your partner to take things slow and gentle can aid with this, or even simply by focusing on external erogenous zones, for both of you, and skipping intercourse altogether, is another way to go.
If playing on your own, there are some vibrators specifically designed with this in mind. Soft by Playful has a few toys in their range that have an extremely soft exterior, with plenty of cushioning, perfect for those with vaginal atrophy. Seduce is a rechargeable, fully waterproof vibrator, while Cherish is the rabbit version for simultaneous internal and external stimulation. Pornhub branded sex toys are similarly soft and squishy, though are a lot more powerful, and may still cause some discomfort or pain simply because of their strength.
Menopausal vaginal atrophy needn’t be the end of your sex life, no matter which form that may take. With some patience, care and some preparation, you can steer into the skid of your hormonal changes and all the emotional, mental and physical changes that bring.
Visit one of the oh zone sex stores and a consultant will be available to help you!