I’m learning first-hand what I used to only understand from articles I had read and things my mother mentioned…
The beginnings of menopause and perimenopause bring a lot of changes.
Yup, I’ve officially hit that up-to-10-year time frame where the role my hormones play in my body will take on a life of their own.
If you’ve already experienced “the change”, either at its beginnings are have made your way into menopause full force, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
That’s because along with wildly fluctuating hormones, for we women, our 40s and 50s go hand-in-hand with everything from mood swings and hot flashes to night sweats, problems sleeping and yes — weight gain.
And, to top it off, many of us also get the added bonus of problems with our sexual function that can start in our perimenopause years and stick with us from then on.
A less satisfying sex life
According to a new study published recently in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), the chances of sexual dysfunction increases by nearly 30 percent during perimenopause.
Not only do your changing hormones make you feel like you’re on a roller coaster ride of emotions through a tropical heatwave while you gain weight despite not changing your diet one iota, but they can also steal the satisfying sex life you used to experience.
Related: 5 natural ways to boost your libido
Well, past studies have shown that as your estrogen levels fall during the menopause transition a massive number of biological changes happen simultaneously in your body. And, unfortunately, these changes lead to vaginal atrophy.
In other words, the walls of your vagina begin to thin, dry out, and become inflamed.
But, despite the results of this previous research, no one knew where these changes really started until now…
Lubrication and sexual function
Thanks to the NAMS study, we now know that the majority of sexual function problems we experience during perimenopause and into menopause begin thanks to vaginal dryness.
In fact, the study showed that of all the issues brought on by the menopause transition, vaginal dryness most often has the greatest effect on desire, arousal, lubrication, and overall satisfaction when it comes to sex.
And although it may sound strange, according to the researchers this is good news…
That’s because vaginal dryness is what they call “eminently treatable”.
In other words, a lack of vaginal lubrication is something that’s pretty easy to overcome and once you do that, it can help you maintain your sexual function and a healthy, enjoyable sex life throughout menopause.
Options for overcoming vaginal dryness
So, how do you increase the level of moisture in your vaginal tract despite your falling estrogen levels?
Well, you have a number of good options — including prescription, over-the-counter, and thoroughly natural, depending on your preferences.
1. Estrogen replacement
Your first option is to use vaginal estrogen therapy to replace the estrogen your body no longer makes to relieve dryness. This estrogen can come in the form of rings, creams, or tablets that you simply place inside your vagina daily.
Of course, since it is a prescription, and hormone replacement therapy, there are possible side effects to be aware of such as:
- Vaginal itching, stinging, or redness
- Vaginal discharge
- Breast pain or enlargement
So, if those don’t sound like something you want to risk, one of the more natural choices below might be a better way to go for you.
2. Personal lubricants
You can also simply use any of the over-the-counter lubricant options prior to sexual intercourse in order to relieve the dryness that can make sex less enjoyable.
This won’t necessarily provide long-lasting relief, but every little bit helps — especially if you combine it with #3 below.
3. Vaginal moisturizers
By the time we hit perimenopause or menopause, most of us already spend lots of time and money on creams, serums, and masks to keep our skin hydrated. So, why don’t we do the same for our vaginas which also dry as we age?
The answer is that we should!
There are plenty of daily vaginal moisturizers out there to choose from. In fact, many of them use the same type of ingredients you’ll find in your facial creams — such as hyaluronic acid, which holds 1,000 times its weight in water for enhanced hydration.
And, there’s good news…
A study reported in Harvard Health found that a vaginal lubricant was just as effective as estrogen therapy at relieving vaginal dryness — making going natural a no-brainer.
Perimenopause and menopause may bring about hormonal changes that make sexual dysfunction more likely as we age — but it’s not a foregone conclusion.
There are things you can do, like keeping your vagina hydrated to prevent atrophy, that can preserve your sexual function and your satisfying sex life no matter your age or hormone status.
- Perimenopause often signals beginning of sexual dysfunction — EurekAlert!
- Estrace Vaginal Cream — RxList
- Estrogen (Vaginal Route) — Mayo Clinic
- What is Hyaluronic Acid — dermHA
- Don’t ignore vaginal dryness and pain — Harvard Health