Have you noticed the changes in your body as you go through the menopausal transition? One day you feel fine, the next day you’re sweating up a storm because of hot flashes. One night you sleep like a baby and the next night you’re pacing around, unable to settle down.
Some changes, however, often don’t show up as noticeably. Take your vagina, for instance. It turns out our declining hormone levels cause the walls of our vaginas to become thinner and less elastic. The lack of flexibility hampers the ability of blood to flow through the area and, thus, create moisture. The combination of thinner vaginal walls and less moisture can lead to difficulty with sex and likeliness for irritation, injury and infection. These issues also are linked to vaginitis (an inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching and pain) and urinary tract infection. This video offers a good overview of vaginal dryness:
Importance of lubrication
Lubrication becomes increasingly important because of these changes. One way to increase lubrication is vaginal cream. These creams, which are offered under several brand names, are used to treat dryness, itching and burning in and around the vagina. The creams include estrogen and are applied in small dosages (between 0.5 to 1.0 grams) to the vagina several times a week.
These creams should not be used as a lubricant for sex since the estrogen potentially can be absorbed by your partner. Water-based lubricants also can help with lubrication when you’re having intercourse.
Also, please be aware that some research suggests that exposing the vagina to estrogen may increase the risk of uterine or breast cancer in some women. Therefore, it’s important to talk to your doctor about this product in relation to your health and history before using it.
Some women who don’t want to use estrogen products on their body opt instead to use almond, coconut or olive oil to lubricate the area. These are safe as long as you don’t have an allergy to the main ingredient.
The North American Menopause Society also recommends the following five tips to help support vaginal and vulva comfort:
- Avoid using soap on this area when bathing. Instead, just use clean water.
- Use white toilet paper that’s unscented.
- Opt for laundry detergents that don’t have dyes and perfumes.
- Don’t use fabric softeners and anti-cling laundry products on your underwear.
- Don’t use lotions or perfumed products on the inner vulva.
_More Helpful Shareposts on Vaginal Menopause Symptoms: _
Primary Resources for This Sharepost:
Graedon, J. (2009). Pros and Cons of Premarin Cream. The People’s Pharmacy.
Mayo Clinic. (2014). Vaginitis.
North American Menopause Society. (ND). Vaginal and Vulvar Comfort: Lubricants, Moisturizers, and Low-Dose Vaginal Estrogen.
Seaman, B. & Eldridge, L. (2008). The No-Nonsense Guide to Menopause.
Thacker, H. L. (2009). The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause.
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.