Menopause And Sex. Don’t let menopause ruin your intimacy!
Decrease in estrogen during menopause changes the tissues of the vagina and can cause painful sex. These changes can cause dryness, burning, irritation, discomfort, and painful intercourse. The term used to describe these symptoms was VVA-Vulvovaginal Atrophy.
Because vulvovaginal atrophy (VVA) isn’t a media-friendly term this cluster of symptoms that affect a women during the menopause transition has been changed to Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM).
This term is also more encompassing, as it describes not only vulvovaginal symptoms but also recurrent urinary tract infections, urinary urgency (a sudden compelling urge to urinate), and painful or difficult urination.
Also, the new nomenclature, GSM, doesn’t imply that the condition is a disease, like atrophy seems to, but it better describes a cluster of signs and symptoms linked to decreased estrogen and other sex hormones affecting female genitalia.
About half of postmenopausal women experience GSM. Even though the incidence is so high, GSM isn’t a subject women talk about freely with their friends or even their physicians. GSM is under-reported and unfortunately for many women, under-treated. GSM affects women’s quality of life because of the negative effect on sexual function, enjoyment of sex, sexual intimacy, self-esteem, and emotional well-being.
Don’t let GSM dictate your washroom breaks, ruin your intimate relationships or decrease your enjoyment of life. There’s an array of treatments out there and no need to suffer!
There are over-the counter (without prescription) products to alleviate vaginal dryness, burning, irritation, and painful intercourse. If these treatments aren’t effective, women can use prescription topical hormone therapy, a cream or vaginal ovule inserted directly into the vagina which does not have the same side/adverse effects as hormone therapy taken orally (in a pill form).
(I will write more about hormone therapy and side effects in another post!).
Some women may also experience structural problems, such as organ prolapse*, for which there are treatments available as well.
If your physician doesn’t ask about the health of your vagina and you are experiencing genitourinary symptoms, bring it up at your next visit.
Don’t let GSM decrease your enjoyment of life!
Teresa Isabel Dias
BSc Pharm, RPh, NCMP
Pharmacist and Certified Menopause Practitioner
Visit my website www.menopausED.org to learn more about menopause and book a consultation
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