Menopause

Menopause is a normal physiologic event in the lives of women and transmales. Some may erroneously see it as ‘the end of the road’ or even a disease or disorder, but perhaps we should be shifting our perspective and viewing this stage of life as a transition, just like many of the other natural transitions we go through.

The summary sheet below helps to breakdown a few key facts about menopause. 

What is Menopause?

An individual has reached menopause when a period of twelve consecutive months has passed without menstruation. The average age one goes through menopause is ~52, however the range can vary widely from approximately 40-58 years of age.

Some individuals find these products helpful for menopause and associated vaginal dryness and pain. 

What is Peri-Menopause?

Peri-menopause is the time period leading up to menopause. During this phase, individuals will experience fluctuations in hormone levels

(primarily estrogen and progesterone) which may contribute to a vast number of menopausal symptoms. Peri-menopause may last on average for 6-8 years and some of these changes usually begin in one’s mid-to-late 40’s or early 50’s.

Common Symptoms

Systemic symptoms such as: night sweats, hot flashes, fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, mood swings, and memory issues.

Local symptoms within the pelvis and vulvo-vaginal area may include: irregular menstrual cycles, changes in vaginal health such as - vaginal dryness, a decrease in muscle and collagen tissue flexibility, changes in vulvar skin texture and appearance, burning, itching or skin irritation.

Other Pelvic Health Changes

  • urinary incontinence (bladder leakage)
  • increased urgency or frequency of urination
  • an increase in urinary tract infections as the pH balance of the vagina changes with a decline in hormone levels

 What about Sex?

Changes in sexual function and loss of sexual desire can act as a negative influence on a person’s self-esteem and personal relationships. This is in part due to how prevalent vaginal dryness is in the peri to post-menopausal population. Literature supports that 50% of post-menopausal women will have symptoms of vaginal discomfort within three years of menopause.

What the Statistics show:

A North American Menopause Society (NAMS) study discovered the following findings post-menopause:

  • 58% of women avoided intimacy due to vaginal discomfort
  • 64% of women experienced loss of libido due to vaginal discomfort
  • 64% of women experienced pain associated with sex
  • 30% of men & women ceased having sex altogether due to vaginal discomfort

We can see how the local symptom of vaginal dryness associated with menopause can cause such drastic changes to one’s relationship and quality of life.

How do I treat Vaginal Dryness?

NAMS suggests a stepwise (non-hormonal to hormonal) approach for treating vaginal dryness which includes:

  1. Vaginal Moisturizers and Lubricants
  2. Low Dose Vaginal Estrogen
  3. Oral or Transdermal Hormone Therapy

Non-hormonal options such as lubricants and vaginal moisturizers can easily be obtained over the counter.

Vaginal lubricants are more immediate-acting and provide temporary relief from vaginal dryness and pain related to sexual activity. They are not well absorbed by the skin but come in a variety of forms and textures (water, oil or silicone based).

Vaginal moisturizers are quite helpful to reduce pain and friction but also play a role in healing damaged tissue and helping maintain vaginal moisture and acidity. If applied regularly, the effects are  more long lasting.

If you, a friend or family member are struggling with vaginal dryness or other menopause related symptoms, please seek out medical advice. Let’s keep the conversation going and reduce the stigma associated with this natural transition in life.

Leave a comment