Oh, man. Who else just broke out in a sweat reading that post title?
NOT A HOT FLASH!
I’m going to put a caveat right here so NO ONE can say I didn’t warn them…
CAVEAT: REAL TALK ABOUT SEXUAL FUNCTION POST-MENOPAUSE
A small survey was taken (1,858 post-menopausal women, 45 and older – median age 58) by a company that sells women’s health products and a disturbing trend was discovered:
A large majority of postmenopausal women experienced painful intercourse, vaginal dryness, itching or irritation, but only a small percentage asked for treatment…apparently because they waited in vain for their physician to bring it up.
Bad enough that women still don’t feel comfortable taking their sexual health into their own hands, but that’s not the most disturbing part:
But while respondents said that around a quarter of the time, their healthcare providers (mostly gynecologists) recommended hormone therapy, 85% of these discussions were initiated by the woman.
Streicher said that another reason doctors do not bring up these topics is they do not feel comfortable discussing them with their patients. In that case, she recommends referring the patient to a provider who is more familiar with the subject.
What the holy hell?!
Doctors: heal thyself, but more importantly: get over thyself.
Women: start getting used to saying words like “vagina” and “painful intercourse” and “dryness.” If you have to, practice in a bathroom where it’s just you and the mirror.
Doctor, I’m having painful intercourse and something odd is happening to my vagina/vulva (take a look at your vagina, using a hand-held mirror, so you can use descriptors for size, color and shape changes). Is this normal? (Yes. The answer is yes.)
It helps to say this with a straight face, as giggles beget guffaws.
The painful truth is that vulvar and vaginal atrophy (ATROPHY!) is extremely common post-menopause. In the survey, 81% of women were UNAWARE it was a medical condition, and simply thought of it as a normal part of aging. That number is mind-blowing.
I bet you know the culprit: lack of estrogen.
Before you think there’s an easy to fix with hormone replacement, let me caution you: the majority of breast cancer tumors are estrogen-fueled. Doesn’t mean you can’t take it, but docs everywhere INSIST you talk to your doc first.
Oh, and this atrophy occurs with surgical menopause as well, along with some chemo treatments, especially if the treatment puts you into early menopause.
Ain’t being a gal FUN?!
So what can be done to help?
Keep having sex. This is a BIGGIE.
If sex is painful, if penetration seems an impossible task, one of the best options is asking your doc to recommend a pelvic floor specialist.
A common product used with a pelvic floor specialist is vaginal dilators. They are vaginal inserts that serve many purposes if you have sever vaginal atrophy.
I’ll let Memorial Sloan Kettering have the floor:
Allow your healthcare provider to perform a more thorough pelvic exam.
Make it more comfortable for you to be examined.
Prevent your vagina from becoming too narrow.
Keep your vagina more elastic.
Allow you to have vaginal sex with less discomfort.
If you see a specialist, they will direct you to a supplier of medical grade dilators.
This is serious business, ladies. For generations (apparently continuing through today), women believed that their sexual lives stopped, post-menopause. If you are in pain, or if you recognize your symptoms in this post, but thought there was nothing you could do about it, I’m here to tell you to make an appointment with your doc or a specialist who CAN help.
Life is too short, my babies.
Bow Chicka Bow Wow!
* Disclaimer: All information in this series is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s advice. Got questions? GET THEE TO A DOC!
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