VAGINAL CHANGES IN THE MENOPAUSE.
By: Julie Dargan RN, ND, BHSc
Have you ever noticed how many people treat the subject of menopause as taboo. There are a lot of articles on subjects such as “How to Lose Weight” but very little information available on the subject of “What to expect in the Menopause.” Add to the mix simply writing down the word “Vagina” in my title and I can already see a few people squirming. So where is a woman to go if she needs help if she is seeking advice on the changes that may be occurring in her body during peri-menopause, menopause or even post menopause.
Many women do not know what to expect once they enter the peri-menopause, menopause or post menopause. I have observed that women may openly announce having a hot flush over morning tea, or that their sleep patterns are disturbed due to night sweats, but I have never had a women openly discuss vaginal changes.
Contrast this to my private group of women (Menopause Whisperer on Facebook), and the topic of vaginal changes is quite prevalent.
Many a question is asked in the sanctity of the group about vaginal changes. Hence the need for this topic to come out of the closet and be openly discussed.
In this article am going to explore the following topics:
HERE IS A LIST OF VAGINAL CHANGES A WOMAN MAY EXPERIENCE IN THE MENOPAUSE
WHY ARE THESE CHANGES ARE OCCURING.
The technical term for what is occurring is “Atrophic vaginitis”. As with other menopause symptoms, this is caused by a decrease in oestrogen levels.
It most commonly occurs after the menopause but a small percentage of women will suffer from some form of atrophic vaginitis during peri-menopause or at menopause.
The symptoms are due to a thinning of the vaginal lining and a reduction in blood flow to the vagina. When the levels of oestrogen falls in the menopause woman, the thickness of the vaginal wall decreases from as many as 30 cells deep to 10 cells deep, thus causing a thinning of the vaginal wall. The vaginal tissue thins and dries out, becomes less elastic, more fragile and more susceptible to injury.
The acidity of the vagina also decreases, thus allowing more pathogenic bacteria to grow and hence making the woman prone to urinary tract infections and have a greater chance of developing chronic vaginal infections.
There is also a reduction in blood flow to the vagina and the vagina becomes less able to distend. It can also make sexual intercourse painful.
Dribbling occurs due to the spincter muscle becoming weak.
WHO IS MORE AT RISK?
Women who have never given birth vaginally are more prone as opposed to those who delivered vaginally.
Smoking impairs blood circulation so smokers are more prone to vaginal atrophy as well as other conditions associated with tissue oxygenation. Smoking also reduces the effects of naturally occurring oestrogens in the body.
TIPS TO EASE THE SYMPTOMS
Before I delve into this section I need to stress that you discuss with your doctor what the main cause of your vaginal symptoms before any self-treatment. If, for example, your main symptom is vaginal burning sensation with urination (usually an indication of an infection), then sexual activity will only exacerbate it.
Only a doctor, after a thorough examination, can determine if your symptoms are caused by decreased oestrogen, vaginal lining atrophy, an infection, irritant, or any other reason.
#Tip 1: Regular sexual activity, including masturbation, helps keep vaginal tissues healthy due to the increased blood flow to the area during this time. By maintaining bursts of blood flow to the area makes the vaginal tissue more elastic. It also stimulates the production of natural moisture to the area.
#Tip 2: Use a vaginal lubricant that is designed to be used to relieve friction during sex by coating the vaginal walls. It is important not to use Petroleum Jelly as it is not water-soluble and thus remains in the vagina where it can harbour yeast and other infection-producing microbes. It is important to note here also that vaginal lubricants tend to evaporate so you may need to reapply them during intercourse.
# Tip 3: Allowing time to become sexually aroused can limit the pain that may be occurring during intercourse.
#Tip 4: Loose cotton clothing and underwear improves air circulation in the genital area creating a less ideal environment for bacteria to grow and proliferate.
#Tip 5: Some research has shown that Vitamin D helps in increasing moisture in the vagina. You can read more about Vitamin D here.
#Tip 6: Oestrogen cream, by prescription, can be applied directly to the vagina. This can help relieve vaginal dryness by keeping vaginal tissue moist, healthy and strong.
#Tip 7: A diet rich in whole grains and vegetables is highly recommended.
#Tip 8: Aloe vera soft gels vaginally can ease the pain. The pH of the vagina will break down the capsule so there is no need to puncture it prior to insertion).
Knowing what is going on inside our bodies can allow women to cope better with the symptoms of menopause, particularly vaginal symptoms. Once you understand the mechanisms acceptance can be easier.
In my next blog I will be discussing foods and remedies to assist with low oestrogen levels and thus help to strengthen the mucous membranes of the vagina.
Want to know more about Your Body and The Menopause?
Julie Dargan is a Nurse, Naturopath (BHSc) who helps women lessen their symptoms of the menopause through dietary and lifestyle changes. Julie has a FREE 5 DAY Kickstart Guide to help you get Rid of the Hot Flushes & Wake up with with less aches and pains. If you would like a copy of this FREE 20+ Day Guide click here to sign up.
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