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Sex, the menopause and vaginal dryness: it can be a tricky conversation to navigate, can’t it? Should we still want it? Should we still be having it? The answer is absolutely yes! Women of all ages deserve to have a fulfilling sex life – after all, our sexual wellbeing is key to our physical and mental health – but many of us still feel embarrassed about broaching the subject. Read on to hear more from Eleanor Gardner, Founder of Pelvic Relief.
There are taboos within taboos when it comes to the menopause and the symptoms associated with it. Some symptoms such as hot flushes are more widely known and discussed, others less so. If you’ve noticed your vagina lacks natural lubrication, then you’re not alone. Research by the British Menopause Society shows that just over a third (35%) of women going through menopause experience vaginal dryness, although the menopause specialists in our clinic believe this figure is higher as many women are too embarrassed to discuss this symptom.
As a result of a natural decline in the body’s oestrogen levels during the menopause transition, vaginal tissues can become thinner and more easily irritated, which leaves many women experiencing painful sex, something that no woman should have to contend with.
For those looking to enjoy sex during menopause, it can be tricky knowing where to start, but the good news is help is at hand. One of the reasons I created Pelvic Relief was to help women navigate the myriad of products on the market and offer solutions that really work for them, so they can get back to enjoying a happy and healthy sex life. Treating vaginal dryness during sex and knowing which products to use can play a huge part in enjoying a great sex life.
Find out more about vaginal dryness, itching, and irritation and how to manage this symptom here.
Often, the first-line treatment option for vaginal dryness is HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Systemic HRT can come in many different forms, including gels, patches, a spray and tablets. A significant number of women who use HRT also need a vaginal oestrogen, however a vaginal oestrogen alone may be all that you need if you only or mainly have vulval and or vaginal symptoms. Vaginal oestrogens include creams, pessaries (tiny tablets that are inserted into the vagina), gels and vaginal rings. Only very small amounts of oestrogen are absorbed into the body and so there is no known risk of breast cancer or blood clots. These treatments are specifically made to manage GSM (genitourinary syndrome of menopause), which includes the vulval, vaginal and bladder changes affecting women during perimenopause and beyond.
Those looking to consider non-hormonal solutions instead of, or as well as HRT, can explore vaginal moisturisers and lubricants.
There are many products available; however, I always recommend YES YES, YES range of organic moisturisers, lubricants and washes because they have been carefully formulated with vaginas and vulvas in mind.
Vaginal moisturisers like this one can help improve tissue hydration which lasts up to a few days, while lubricants can be used to help make sex, masturbation, or sex toy play more pleasurable.
There is a range of formulas to choose from, including water-based and oil-based. When it comes to picking out the best lubricant for menopausal dryness, it’s really down to personal preference. Water-based lubes are great for people with sensitive skin or vaginal irritation, while oil-based formulas are more slippery and longer-lasting. Remember, any oil-based products shouldn’t be used with latex condoms as they can reduce the effectiveness.
The vagina is filled with good bacteria (lactobacillus), which has a very protective function to help prevent infections and allows the good vaginal microflora to thrive.
If you are experiencing vaginal dryness, for example, as a result of the menopause, the lactobacillus can no longer flourish, and the pH of the vagina will rise. This can result in infections such as BV (bacterial vaginosis), thrush or cystitis. It is therefore important that any water-based lubricant or moisturiser is pH matched to the vagina to restore this protective function and allow the good guys to thrive once more.
The delicate membranes in the vagina and vulva can be easily irritated or damaged by synthetic chemicals. When buying any products that you’ll be applying to your vagina or vulva, take a careful look at what’s in the product.
The following ingredients can cause vaginal irritation and should be avoided if you are able to find alternative products:
Taking some time to figure out what works for you and your body is important. Formulation really does matter with this particular class of products. The YES, YES, YES range of products are all certified organic, hormone and irritant-free. They are pH matched to the vagina and specifically formulated for good gynaecological health.
Here’s a quick rundown of their offer:
For that true YES YES YES feeling, apply the YES OB on first to protect the tissue and ensure long-lasting lubrication and then YES WB on top or on your partner so the two glide over each other.
I hope that as you have found My Menopause Centre, you no longer feel alone during this period of transition in your body and life and that what we do at Pelvic Relief can become part of a solution that will allow you to lead a positive and healthy life throughout and beyond menopause. Good luck with your journey.
Eleanor Gardner is the founder of Pelvic Relief, which offers quality products and information to help women manage conditions such as pelvic pain, incontinence and painful sex. Eleanor is passionate about changing the perception of pelvic health and helping women find solutions that enable them to live happy, healthy lives.
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WHO Advisory Note: Use and procurement of additional lubricants for male and female condoms: WHO/UNFPA/FHI360
Edwards. D. and Panay. N., 2015. Vulvovaginal atrophy/genitourinary syndrome of menopause: how important is vaginal lubricant and moisturizer composition? Climacteric, 19:2; pp151-161
The YES YES Company; YES natural lubricant ingredients & ingredient policy www.yesyesyes.org