Guest Blog: Me & My Menopausal Vagina
Hot flushes, anxiety, weight gain, brain fog etc etc amongst this long list of menopause symptoms is ‘vaginal dryness’ sounds innocent enough?
Here is a quote from a lady in my vaginally atrophy support group ( I have permission to share) “This has to be taken seriously by everyone – women of all ages, our daughters, mothers and so importantly the medical profession. VA doesn’t change your life, it takes it over. We need the initials VA to be as easily recognised as MS, ME, TB” and there lies the problem most don’t realise just how awful that ‘vaginal dryness’ can be, the fact that 70 plus % will suffer one way or another and with an ageing population will only become more of a problem with more and more suffering one way or the other. The supermarket and chemist shelves aren’t stocked with all these vaginal products for no reason.
So what is ‘vaginal dryness’ ? It’s more commonly known as VA or ‘vaginal atrophy’ but has been renamed GSM ‘genitourinary symptoms of menopause’ that’s because vaginal atrophy can also effect the bladder hence the ‘urinary’ part.
The symptoms of VA are like any condition from mild to severe and anywhere in between, painful or impossible sex, dryness AND for some a very watery discharge, soreness in the vagina and on the outside of the vulva area including perineum, burning, itching, repeated UTIs, getting up to the loo numerous times a night, painful to sit down, potential for episiotomies to split due to thinning skin,can’t ride a bike etc basically very miserable and can really effect day to day life and definitely mental health. What I must say at this point that there are numerous other vulva skin conditions we can get including lichen scerlosus, lichen planus, vulva cancer and others which is why it is SO important not to self treat any of the above symptoms with over the counter products and medical advise should be sort.
As I said vaginal atrophy is so common the rest of our body ages and we seem to neglect that our vaginas, vulvas and bladders AND our pelvic floors will also do so, ladies seem to think it’s ‘normal’ to leak after a certain age, it is not and before you reach for a lifetime of incontinence pads, go and see a women’s health physio and consider at the very least local oestrogen and for some ladies including myself HRT, we must understand and look beyond the scaremongering headlines of bad reporting around HRT, because the urogenital area in a women is one of if not the most oestrogen dependant parts of her body and can and for many really does suffer form lack of it.
It’s VERY important we examine our vulvas regularly to keep an eye out for change, so don’t ignore that itch, don’t self treat and seek medical help, as there are other skin conditions that are very similar to VA including lichen scerlosus, which in rare cases if left untreated can turn to vulva cancer.
I have had an absolutely awful time with vaginal atrophy which started at 45 ( contrary to popular belief it only starts when periods stop this is not the case for many ladies ) so I decided enough was enough regards the secrecy and shame around this side of menopause that I decided to write a book with my daughter and it is being extremely well received by both sexes and all ages, including the medical profession.
Jane Lewis I am 52, married, a mother of 3 daughters & one Granddaughter.
I suffer from the very taboo of vaginal atrophy, that not even the medical profession are not keen to talk about so I have decided to instead.