Why is it that, for many people, the subject of vaginal dryness in the menopause is considered a taboo topic?

There are a lot of articles on subjects such as “How to Overcome Hot Flushes” but very little information available on the subject of “What Vaginal Changes You May Experience in the Menopause.”

Simply writing down the word “Vagina” in my title and I can already see a few people squirming.

So where does a woman go if she is seeking advice on the changes that may be occurring in her body during menopause, particularly vaginal dryness?

Many women simply do not know what to expect with each phase of the menopause. I have observed 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.

Vaginal Changes a Woman May Experience in the Menopause

  • Vaginal dryness
  • Vaginal itching
  • Vaginal burning sensation with urination
  • Pain or discomfort during intercourse
  • Spotting of blood after intercourse
  • Frequent urinary tract infections
  • Urinary incontinence

Why Are these Changes Occurring?

The technical term for what is occurring is Atrophic vaginitis. As with other menopause symptoms, this is caused by a decrease in oestrogen levels.

Vaginal vaginitis 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.

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.

6 Tips to Ease the Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness

Before I delve into this section, I need to stress that you first need to discuss with your doctor what the main cause of your vaginal symptoms may be before introducing any self-treatment. If, for example, your main symptom is having 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: Using a vaginal lubricant during sex, assists to relieve friction, 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 evidence has shown that Vitamin D helps in increasing moisture in the vagina.

#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.

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.

What are your main menopausal symptoms that you would like to have discussed? Please join in the discussion below and share your tips to help you Survive the Menopause.

Jule-DarganJulie Dargan is a Nurse, Naturopath (BHSc) who helps women lessen their symptoms of the menopause through dietary and lifestyle changes. You can find out more on her site at Menopausewhisperer.com. She also has a FREE 5 Day program to help get you hormones in harmony and ease symptoms such as vaginal dryness.

Other references:

  • Mayo Clinic
  • Phillips, E., Everything you need to know about menopause. Royale. 2003

Disclaimer: None of the information in this article is medical advice. Please talk with your doctor before doing anything described in this article.

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