I’m so pleased to invite Jane Lewis (author of “Me and My Menopausal Vagina”) to share her story:
Me & My Menopausal Vagina – by Jane Lewis
“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 vaginal atrophy support group (I have permission to share).
“I was the same got through the hot flushes, got through back to back migraines, got through the mood swings was so pleased I was past the finishing post then Whollop… LS & VA! I didn’t realise there was a whole load of problems post menopause”.
And there lies the problem. Most don’t realise just how awful that “vaginal dryness” can be. The fact is that 70% + will suffer one way or another and with an ageing population this 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 creams without reason.
What is Vaginal Dryness?
So what is “vaginal dryness”? It’s more commonly known as VA or “vaginal atrophy” though recently VA has been renamed to “genitourinary symptoms of menopause” (GSM). The reason for this is because vaginal atrophy can also effect the bladder, hence the “urinary “ part.
The symptoms of VA are like any condition, ranging from mild to severe and anywhere in between, presenting a long list of woes:
- Painful or impossible sex
- Dryness (AND for some) a very watery discharge
- Soreness – in 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 affect 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. Medical advice should be sought.
As I said vaginal atrophy is so common. Whilst the rest of our body ages we seem to neglect that our vaginas, vulvas and bladders AND our pelvic floors will also age. Ladies seem to think that 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 physiotherapist 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 part of her body and can, for many, really suffer from the lack of it.
Too add insult to injury, menopause ladies can also complain of dry eyes, itchy ears, a dry mouth and/or a dry nose when they never had them before. These are all mucosal membranes that are the same as the vagina and exactly the same is happening to it. These symptoms don’t happen overnight however. By the time symptoms show themselves it’s already been slowly coming on for years as our hormones start depleting at a younger age than we realise. 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 advice!
Why seeking help is important …
Unfortunately, one of the main reasons why VA (and the like) is still so unknown is that such a small percentage of women go to their GPs… due to embarrassment. Because of this trait GPs aren’t as aware of VA, and how to treat it, as they could be. In many cases, those who do go to see the GP with VA (whose diagnosis, once any other skin condition is ruled out) is very often given treatment for Thrush… What your vulva and vagina are actually crying out for is local oestrogen, which BTW is not the same as HRT. Even ladies who have had breast cancer use local oestrogen with the approval of her oncologist, where using it twice a week is the equivalent of ONE HRT pill a year. So this really is a tiny amount.
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, however, is not the case for many ladies. So I decided enough was enough with regards to the secrecy and shame around this side of menopause so I decided to write a book with the help of my daughter. So far, having published it in late September 2018, it has been extremely well received by both sexes and all ages, and also the medical profession and women’s health physiotherapists who are all helping to spread the word”
Jane, Esme Rose
Thank you Jane for writing such a great book and sharing it with us. I’d highly recommend this as essential reading for all women. Although this can be a really awful thing to deal with, Jane’s book offers so much advice and understanding delivered in a highly entertaining and endearing way. Jane’s book is available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MkjT2D