Menopause and Sex: What You Must Know

    5
  • Addressing the Vaginal Symptoms of Menopause While many women are aware of menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, the vaginal and sexual symptoms associated with menopause are less well known.

    The recent online HealthyWomen survey* investigated postmenopausal women’s knowledge and attitudes towards the vaginal and sexual symptoms of menopause, particularly vaginal dryness and painful intercourse and their impact on women’s sexual health. The survey results identified the need for increased awareness and open dialogue with health care professionals. While many women are aware of menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, the vaginal and sexual symptoms associated with menopause are less well known.

    The recent online HealthyWomen survey* investigated postmenopausal women’s knowledge and attitudes towards the vaginal and sexual symptoms of menopause, particularly vaginal dryness and painful intercourse and their impact on women’s sexual health. The survey results identified the need for increased awareness and open dialogue with health care professionals.

    * The HealthyWomen survey was conducted online by HealthyWomen and Harris Interactive among 1,043 postmenopausal women 40+ years of age, with grant support from Pfizer Inc.
  • Learn More About Your Symptoms More than half of the postmenopausal women surveyed who reported experiencing vaginal dryness (64 percent) or painful intercourse (62 percent) agreed** with the statement “I have learned to live with vaginal dryness/painful intercourse and have come to accept it.” But these symptoms are not something you have to live with – and the first step to managing your vaginal symptoms is to learn more about them.

    During menopause, when estrogen levels start to drop, vaginal walls become thinner, less elastic, and less lubricated. For some women, the vaginal symptoms they experience as a result of menopause may cause dyspareunia – or pain during sexual intercourse – which is said to be one of the most bothersome vaginal symptoms of menopause. Decreased lubrication can also cause discomfort, bleeding and tearing of the vaginal tissues during intercourse.

    **Agreed = agreed and strongly agreed
  • Engage Your Health Care Professional Armed with knowledge of the vaginal symptoms of menopause, you can have meaningful discussions about your personal symptom experience with your health care professional. Unfortunately, of the postmenopausal women surveyed, 45 percent who reported experiencing vaginal dryness and 41 percent who reported experiencing painful intercourse had not spoken to their health care professional about their condition. This was mainly due to embarassment (30 percent of women experiencing vaginal dryness; 33 percent of women experiencing painful intercourse) or the incorrect belief that nothing could be done medically to help their condition (20 percent of women experiencing vaginal dryness; 27 percent of women experiencing painful intercourse).
  • Find the Right Treatment Option for You As mentioned, a common misconception is that vaginal dryness and painful intercourse cannot be treated. In fact, more than a third of the postmenopausal women surveyed who reported experiencing vaginal dryness (37 percent) and 41 percent who reported experiencing painful intercourse agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I do not believe there is anything that can be done medically to help improve my condition.”

    When it comes to treating menopausal symptoms, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but a range of treatment options exist. Depending on your individual treatment goals and risk profile, a health care professional may recommend over-the-counter vaginal lubricants and moisturizers or prescription estrogen therapy.
  • Talk with your Partner It is also important to be open and honest about your symptom experience with your partner. As reported in the HealthyWomen survey, 59 percent of the women surveyed who reported experiencing painful intercourse did not discuss their condition with their partner, naming embarrassment (24 percent), the belief that their partner would not understand (21 percent) and that there is nothing that can be done to help (21 percent) as their top reasons for not having the discussion.

    As the survey reported, many postmenopausal women had not discussed their symptoms with their partners, but 93 percent of the women surveyed who reported experiencing painful intercourse still engage in intercourse even though it is painful, and of those women, almost three-quarters (73 percent) said they engage in painful intercourse because of their partner.

    To learn more about the HealthyWomen survey and the vaginal symptoms of menopause, visit www.PersonalMenopauseAnswers.com. or www.HealthyWomen.org.