You thought you had a UTI, so you went to the doctor. But, the test results came back normal. The increasing vaginal dryness you experienced wasn’t relieved by over-the-counter products and even with lubricant, sex was becoming a …hmmm, not tonight dear.
Seriously, what the heck is going on down there?
It may be that some of your symptoms are a result of a loss of estrogen associated with menopause. Yet another way losing estrogen is messing with you? Well…yes.
So, you know about hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings. But, many of us live with the discomfort of VULVAR VAGINAL ATROPHY or VVA. We know. We said atrophy in the context of your vagina. Sorry to say…It’s a thing.
Simply put VVA is a thinning of vaginal tissue, diminished blood and shortening of the vagina which can lead to symptoms like dryness, itch and pain during sex. The bad news is that VVA comes with a whole host of uncomfortable symptoms and may progress over time. The good news is that you are not alone and there are steps you can take to help prevent or relieve the symptoms.
- First, give up smoking. Among all the other reasons to quit, smoking decreases estrogen levels.
- Continue to be sexually active. Sexual activity increases blood flow which keeps the vaginal tissues healthy.
- Avoid perfumed powders, soaps, deodorants, scented lubricants and even spermicides as these can cause dryness and further irritation.
- Stay well hydrated to maintain moisture levels.
The first step, however, is to make sure your symptoms are indicative of VVA and not something else, like a UTI. So, work with your health provider to eliminate those other confounding conditions. We know this is a difficult conversation, but if you can’t talk about how your vagina feels with your healthcare provider – you may have the wrong provider.
Once your healthcare provider has diagnosed VVA, he or she may recommend vaginal moisturizers or water-based lubricants. If these don’t help, ask about your options for a prescription treatment.
Perhaps the most important step in overcoming atrophy is to keep talking. Talk to your friends who have experienced similar symptoms and may have suggestions for dealing with the physical and emotional discomfort. Talk to your partner about why you may be avoiding sex. And most importantly, to your healthcare provider about ways to manage your symptoms.
Even though your friends might be having different discussions with their doctors, it’s still worth asking them about their journeys — we think it’s about time to shed the taboo surrounding menopause and its uncomfortable, yet very real, symptoms. After all, it’s natural! Why is it hidden from the world? Open and frequent conversations can pave the way for more resources – ones that can teach you about all types of menopause symptoms, including “hushed” ones like VVA.
Exploring these resources can help you understand what’s happening down there – which can be quite empowering. It’s time to arm yourself, and those around you, with the insights and information to help ask informed questions. This in turn better prepares the next generation of women, eventually transforming menopause from a taboo topic into something we should all feel pretty comfortable talking about.
To learn more about menopause and its symptoms, visit www.forevher.com, and check out the infographic below to learn more about VVA.
All opinions expressed in this post are our own.
This post is sponsored by TherapeuticsMD, Inc.