Face it. Getting older stinks! Your hair gets gray, you start getting wrinkles, and your skin starts getting thin and loses its elasticity. Yup, even down THERE the walls of the vagina get thin. It’s called “vaginal atrophy” and due to lower levels of estrogen, it can affect approximately 50% of postmenopausal women. Some of the unpleasant symptoms of vaginal atrophy include, vaginal dryness, itching, irritation, and/or pain during sex, also called “dyspareunia”.1
So what can be done to help make sex more enjoyable and less painful?
- Don’t be silent! Talk to your doctor, get a pelvic exam, and make sure it’s not anything more serious. And don’t forget to talk about ALL of your symptoms. Fewer than one-half of women with vaginal atrophy discuss painful sex with their doctor. Why? They think nothing can be done about it or that it’s just something that happens as we age.2
- Use water-soluble lubricants such as Astroglide® or K-Y® Jelly. Do not use Vaseline®, which is NOT water soluble. It can weaken latex condoms and they could break. Not so much a big deal for postmenopausal women who are over their childbearing years, but condoms are still good protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), even for the older generation!3 According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STD rates have nearly tripled over the past ten years among 45- to 65-year olds.4
- Communicate with your partner. Tell him or her what is comfortable and what isn’t. Consider different positions. Use other activities, such as sensual massage or oral sex. Even fantasy can be fun, too, and can include music, videos, or television. Remember, sex should be fun!3
- Low-dose vaginal estrogen therapy. This type of product provides relief right where it is needed and minimizes possible estrogen side effects on the rest of the body. It comes in various forms, such as vaginal creams, rings, or tablets, and these products are very effective for atrophy-related pain during sex, with up to 93% of women reporting significant improvement, and 57% to 75% reporting reporting their sexual comfort is restored.5
- Selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM). In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved ospemifene (Osphena®), a SERM for the treatment of postmenopausal dyspareunia which increases vaginal epithelial cells and decreases vaginal pH.2
So speak up and get treated! You’ll be glad you did, and so will your partner!
Astroglide®, K-Y® Jelly, Vaseline®, and Osphena® are all registered trademarks of their respective companies.