Recently, I was at a ladies’ night when the subject of vaginas came up (after several glasses of wine, of course). Specifically, how uncomfortable and dry some of were feeling during sex. Once one of us took the plunge and shared their woes, it was like the flood gates opened and everybody was piling on with their own issues.
Discomfort during sex or bleeding after
Feeling like the vagina is shorter or tighter
Burning sensations when peeing
Increased urinary tract infections
What I was hearing was a laundry list of symptoms for vaginal atrophy (also known charmingly as Atrophic vaginitis, vulvovaginal atrophy or urogenital atrophy). Did you just shudder? I know I did.
As we’re going through perimenopause, our estrogen levels start to decrease. Estrogen is basically what makes our vaginas plump and fertile and, for lack of a better word, juicy. It gives our vaginas the elasticity they need for child birth and sex. It also produces certain acids that protect us from infection.Let’s take away the terrifying names for a minute and look at what exactly is going on with our vaginas as we age.
As our estrogen levels start to decrease through perimenopause and menopause, we start to feel the effects on our vaginas, namely all those symptoms I listed earlier.
On top of all that, there are the psychological issues that come with perimenopause, like depression and lack of sex drive, that make it difficult to even WANT to do anything about what’s going on “down there.”
So, what is a gal to do?
DON’T IGNORE YOUR SYMPTOMS
If you’re just starting to think there’s something going on you can start to do things right away that will help. Remember YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Just because your friends aren’t talking about it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Up to 40% of postmenopausal women show signs of vaginal atrophy. My very first tip is:
CHANGE YOUR LAUNDRY HABITS
If you have external itching, take a look at your laundry detergent and switch to something without dyes or perfumes. Don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets either and switch to dryer balls. This will hopefully help immediately with the uncomfortable external itching.
TOSS OUT THE SOAP
The delicate lips of your vulva get dry and thin as we age, which can be a huge cause of itching and discomfort. If you can, only wash your vulva with plain water but if you feel you need something more, ditch the soap for a specially formulated feminine cleanser like Exsens Intime Intimate Cleanser Foam . Companies like Exsens take the time to do the research necessary, making sure products maintain a woman’s delicate PH balance while also lightly moisturizing with natural ingredients.
BUY A GREAT LUBRICANT
There are lubricants specifically formulated to be used every day to help women regain that natural feeling of moisture we had when we were younger. I recommend Sliquid Naturals Satin which is infused with aloe vera, vitamin E, and carrageenan and formulated specifically to be used daily by women who are experiencing regular or periodic dryness. You can even use a syringe to really coat your inner walls.
Let’s face it, our sex drives vary a lot at middle age. Some of our partners are losing interest in sex or having issues of their own, so there is nothing wrong with taking things into your own hands, so to speak. With no partner to worry about, you can focus on your own pleasure. Orgasms are critical to getting the blood flowing in the vagina and helping keep those vaginal walls supple and stretchy and healthy.
FIND SOME GREAT SEX TOYS
Orgasms really help to get the blood flowing throughout your entire pelvic region. If you’re having trouble orgasming, I highly recommend a Magic Wand which has the power to tease an orgasm out of the most reluctant clitoris. If the size is daunting but you still need power I really recommend the Zumio Clitoral Stimulator. Its oscillating head creates quick, intense orgasms that will blow your mind and it's small, quiet, and easy to handle. This is a toy made for women by women.
I also recommend an insertable toy to help keep those sensitive vaginal walls supple. Vaginal dilator sets are available, like this Inspire Vibrating Dilator Set, but if the hard plastic is off-putting to you, try a small silicone dildo instead like this Colours Pleasures 5 inch model. Silicone is a softer material but it is also hypoallergenic and non-porous so you can completely disinfect it and protect your delicate vaginal flora. The We-Vibe Tango is a fantastic vibrating bullet that you can easily use against your clitoris while using a dildo for that extra stimulation.
TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR
All the symptoms I listed earlier are completely normal in perimenopausal and menopausal women and yet so many of us think they are just something we must live with. No way, sister. If you don’t want to try any of my hints, or if you think you may have let the situation go on too long, get yourself to a doctor. Trust me, they’ve heard it all and they’re not going to be shocked or appalled by your uncomfortable vagina situation. You may want to try a prescription vaginal estrogen cream and they can help you choose one which may be right for you. You can also get low dose estrogen vaginal rings which stay in place and release low doses directly.