Table of Contents
Remember that episode in Sex and the City when Charlotte goes to her physician and is diagnosed with a depressed vagina? Poor Charlotte’s vagina wasn’t in need of Manhattan’s best therapist – but it did need some attention and love (no, not that kind of love!). Probably the first time vaginal atrophy had ever been discussed openly on the television, Charlotte’s depressed vagina made the headlines because it was such an under discussed condition that many women experience during their lives. More commonly referred to as vaginal dryness, it’s a super common symptom of menopause too, and like so many symptoms – it’s not something women generally feel comfortable discussing, even with girlfriends. Let’s face it, we have a big problem in society with the the idea that dryness is something that only affects old women, but the reality is very different.
To smash some of the silence and stigma around vaginal atrophy, here’s the 4 most important things you need to know about vaginal dryness, and how to treat it – before your vagina becomes depressed.
It’s way more common than you think
First off, let’s get one thing straight here: vaginal dryness isn’t a rare, weird, hush hush condition that you need to feel shameful about. In fact, it’s so common that it affects 50% (that’s right, FIFTY percent!) of women during the menopausal phase, from perimenopause to post menopause. Unfortunately, we don’t feel that it’s as common as it is because we’ve been conditioned as women not to talk about our vaginas – and a lot of that is because discharge, and being ‘wet’, not dry, is a sign of being sexually ready. That means there is a huge swathe of women in the world suffering with vaginal atrophy in silence. Not cool. Vaginal dryness isn’t just about not being ‘wet’ in the moment though. It’s dryness that occurs at any time, and frustratingly, it rarely goes away on its own without any treatment.
Symptoms wise, vaginal atrophy causes a burning, sore feeling. You might first notice it causes painful sex – before or after, and sometimes it can cause bleeding too. If you use tampons during your period, you might also feel it when taking or inserting a tampon into your vagina (if you do, ditch anything internal until the symptoms have cleared up or you have seen your physician).
Of course! Estrogen is to blame
BLAME it on estrogen. No, seriously, estrogen IS to blame again. As with all of these annoying (let’s say) and frustrating (definitely) issues that come part and parcel with perimenopause, vaginal dryness is caused by estrogen levels dropping. This causes the tissues in your vagina to get thinner, more sensitive and more vulnerable to tearing, especially during sex if it’s a little, exuberant. It’s estrogen’s job to keep everything thick, juicy and stretchy in there, so if things are feeling a bit sore, itchy and sensitive, it’s worth having a check up in case.
Menopause isn’t the only time you might get a case of vaginal dryness though. Anything that causes a hormonal imbalance can cause it. That includes post pregnancy, or health conditions like breast cancer treatment where our lady parts take the hit as a result of estrogen being affected.
It’s Not Just Dryness, It’s Also…
Oh, honey, this is way more than just a Sahara situation. We’re talking itching that makes you want to squirm in your seat, unexpected “Owww!” burning sensations, and even leaking pee when you laugh, run or jump. And if you’ve noticed a bit of spotting after getting it on, that’s vaginal atrophy crashing the party, too. The thing is, these are all signs your body is waving frantically trying to get your attention. It’s literally crying out for help. And the good news is that vaginal atrophy is that you don’t have to put up with it and just hope it gets better.
You don’t need to suffer in silence – it’s easily treatable
Don’t worry! Despite maybe feeling like there is something terrible wrong with your bits and bobs, the good news is that vaginal atrophy is easily treatable, and there is a full array of treatments at your fingertips, quite literally. Vaginal estrogen gives a huge amount of relief – you simply insert it into the vagina and there are different forms that you can choose from – creams, pessaries, an estrogen ring and an oral tablet. It’s also worth looking for a topical moisturizer that will ease pain and dryness in the vulva too, such as Glow by Hormone University’s Intimate Hydrator. If you fancy yourself an A-lister, then there’s also laser solutions and vaginal rejuvenation therapy that helps ease the symptoms and give back your bounce. In more ways than one.
Finally, always chat to your physician
So, while vaginal atrophy might sound like a downer, it’s really just one of those common things we aren’t talking about enough as women. The moral of the story? Chat with your doc and get the help your vagina (and vulva) deserve!
Kate is a content writer, community creator, and ‘Endo-Warrior’ with Stage IV Endometriosis. She’s mum to three kids, two dogs and unsurprisingly; a lover of wine. Kate lives with her family in Hastings, UK.