Written by Teresa Isabel Dias
It’s a really important question – why don’t women talk about urinary and vaginal health? We don’t mention it to our friends, partners, or even to our doctors, and the result is that women with symptoms suffer alone, and needlessly. The vagina and bladder are parts of the body, just like the nose and the fingers, yet somehow it’s OK to discuss a runny nose and manicure but no one talks about leaky bladders, dry vaginas, or painful sex.
With age, estrogen declines and because it is the main female hormone it has a big effect on the tissues, organs, and systems specific to women: breasts, uterus, ovaries, bladder (men have one too but the anatomy of their pipes is different!), vagina, and vulva (the external part of female genitals, not to be confused with the family car).
When estrogen levels are very low these tissues, organs, and systems start to behave differently. The vaginal walls get thinner and dryer, the pelvic floor muscle becomes less tight, the bladder develops a mind of its own, and unwanted and unpleasant things start to happen. Many women start leaking when they run, cough, sneeze, or laugh. Vaginal penetration (with a human or store-bought accessory) becomes uncomfortable and even painful, if not impossible. Women with new intimate relationships who engage in sex after many years without it are at greater risk of experiencing these challenges.
Studies have shown that almost 50% of women in menopause experience vaginal dryness with associated discomfort, itching, and painful sex. However, only 4% of these women are actually receiving treatment for it. That’s awful and sad. It is important that we talk about these things and it’s also important that we do something about them.
I want women who need treatment to get it. You shouldn’t be inconvenienced by your bladder or vagina, or give up sex because it hurts. There are things you can do to improve your urinary and vaginal health. Treatment should always be individualized. But there are a few things you can do to start: use lubricants, moisturizers, and the more sex the better, to improve the tissues of the vagina and reduce dryness.
If you tend to get a lot of UTIs (urinary tract infections) it could be because of thinning of the vaginal walls. Check with your doctor. And if you are avoiding sex because of discomfort or pain then you should tell your partner. Good communication is fundamental in a relationship. If you don’t talk about it, it may cost you your relationship! The CLOSER study showed that 55% of women avoided intimacy with their partners because sex hurt and 61% of male partners attributed lack of intimacy to painful sex.
This is outrageous. Relationships shouldn’t be jeopardized by something that can be improved.
My motto is: There’s help. I can help you!
Teresa Isabel Dias is an Elite+ Mompreneur® member, and founder of MenopausED. As a pharmacist working in healthcare for over 20 years, Teresa realized there is a void in the health care system when it comes to the care and support of women in their midlife years, and especially during the menopause transition. Now serving as a Certified Menopause Practitioner through NAMS*, she helps women going through the menopause transition, educating them on what’s going on in their bodies and mind, and helping them to make informed decisions about their lifestyle and treatment options to improve their quality of life.
Featured image courtesy of shutterstock.com