Many menopausal women suffer with vaginal symptoms including painful intercourse, vaginal dryness and passing urine more frequently. This is because there any many oestrogen receptors in the bladder and around the entrance to the vagina and when levels of circulating oestrogen fall, the symptoms can arise. This is a hugely taboo subject and rarely discussed in a consultation. 1/3 of women suffering with vaginal symptoms do not seek medical advice and are suffering needlessly. Vaginal dryness is one of the symptoms that can persist after your menopause has ended. The medical term for this is vaginal atrophy.
Topical oestrogen is available on prescription to help deliver oestrogen directly into the vagina in the form or a cream, pessary or a ring. This is not the same as taking HRT and does not carry the same associated risks. Topical vaginal oestrogen can be used safely for long periods of time and is very effective in helping with symptoms. This is very reassuring as symptoms often return once you stop the treatment.It can also be prescribed along side systemic HRT quite safely for women with severe atrophy.
It is also important to use mild soaps or shower gel that are gentle on the skin. Vaginal moisturisers are also available to buy -these are non hormonal creams that are applied directly to the vagina to keep the tissues hydrated. Vaginal lubricants can also be used during sexual intercourse to relieve any discomfort. Aly recommends products that are free from harsh chemicals that act as irritants to the skin. Tropics products include body washes and cleansing body pebbles which harness the power of coconut-derived cleanser that is also pH -balanced which means they can be used even in your most intimate areas without irritation. These are available from Aly's Tropic Skincare shop here.
There is more to intimacy than just sexual intercourse, and hugging, kissing and simply holding hands are all ways that you can maintain physical contact.
Exercise releases endorphins- feel good chemicals that help to improve our mood and sense of wellbeing. Exercise also increases the blood flow to the vagina which helps to improve sensitivity.
Many women who suffer with stress incontinence wear a panty liner and this can rub the skin and make symptoms worse. Pelvic floor exercises can help with bladder weakness as well as improve the blood flow to the vagina.
Pelvic floor weakness has a physical, psychological and social impact on women and their families. Many women are unable to leave their own homes to visit friends or walk round a supermarket for fear of leaking urine. It is estimated that 80% of women suffer with some form of incontinence. One in ten of these women may require surgery to to help and yet regular, lifelong pelvic floor exercises can drastically reduce this.
The Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles in the pelvis supporting the bladder, uterus(womb) and bowel. These muscles span from your tailbone (coccyx) to the pubic bone - so they run front to back, but also side to side. If these muscles are not exercised regularly, like any muscle, they can become weakened. This results in the lack of control you have over passing urine, wind of faeces. Pelvic floor exercises also improve the blood flow to the vagina and help with sexual dysfunction.
In severe cases, your internal organs can drop down into the vagina- this is called a prolapse.
Pelvic floor muscles naturally start deteriorating from the age of 18. Pregnancy, childbirth and menopause all make these symptoms worse, but it is never too early to start pelvic floor exercises. Regular pelvic floor exercises need to be part of your daily routine.
Sadly many women do not do these exercises and often many women are unsure where their pelvic floor muscles really are. A Californian gynaecologist Dr Arnold Kegel developed exercises that are clinically proven to improve your pelvic floor strength. This involves repeatedly contracting and relaxing the muscle that form part of the pelvic floor. This can further be improved if you use weighted Kegel balls to strengthen the pelvic floor.
Kegel weights help to to strengthen, tone and tighten your pelvic floor much quicker than if you do your exercises without them as they help you to recognise which muscles you should actually be exercising.
There are many different Kegel weights available on the market, but Aly recommends ‘Secret Whispers'. These weights are designed using double sphere technology for a very comfortable fit and are easy to clean. They are inserted into the vagina (a bit like a tampon.) The goal is to spend 15-20 minutes once or twice EVERY day using the weights while being active. They normally cost £39.99 with free postage in the UK.
Please feel free to contact Simply Menopausal for further advice.