Well it was only a matter of time before I got round to writing about the ‘V’ word, long overdue I know, but it’s hard to prioritise topics with the menopause, there are so many symptoms…this is however always on the top of my agenda when running the workshops as it has to be the topic that women are less likely to talk about amongst themselves!
Vagina – just the word makes some women visibly blush – no seriously – I have been giving a friend of mine ‘vagina therapy’ so she can now say the word without blushing and hilariously has taken ‘the therapy’ a step further and into her own hands, so now finds it very amusing to send me images of contemporary vaginal art, of which there is bizarrely rather a lot – I know I couldn’t believe it either! Here are some examples…
If you would like to see more go to : https://culturacolectiva.com/art/vagina-contemporary-art/
Anyway moving on…
Why bring up vaginas in relation to the menopause…well, vaginal and bladder symptoms are very common, either during peri menopause or post menopause and can cause significant distress, yet often go underreported and under treated as women are either too embarrassed to seek medical help or lack education about what they might experience.
So, back to why are we as a nation so ridiculously prudish about our ‘nether regions’, which then has a knock on effect when something goes wrong ‘down there’! See what I mean – so easy to lapse into British terminology! Admit it how many of you have names for your vaginas instead of calling them the correct name …one friend referred to hers as ‘Fi Fi’ years ago, which had hilarious consequences when one of my sons decided his first car would be called Fi Fi – even I dissolved into a fit of giggles when he told me – he found it so amusing the car has remained as Fi Fi!
I will also never look at an orchid the same way again after a friend’s 80 year old mother told us that orchids always remind her of vaginas! Sorry I digress…
Being ‘terribly British” is not, however, good for the care of your vaginas ladies, so let’s all start to try and think a bit more like the Scandinavians please! When I’m running my information workshops and get to the ‘genitourinary’ ( vaginas and urethras to you and me! ) part it never ceases to surprise me how many women have absolutely no idea that their vaginas and surrounding tissues will be affected during and after this transitional period. The vaginal and urinary symptoms differ slightly from the more commonly known symptoms like hot flushes as they are classed as one of the long term symptoms, whereas the majority of the other symptoms will be classed as relatively short term symptoms. So ladies regardless of the varying different degrees of suffering which could potentially lie ahead, we all need to start paying more attention to that area of our anatomy.
I often say we should give as much care to our vaginas as we do our faces – I’m serious – how much does the female population spend on cleansers, toners and moisturisers and then there’s the time spent – unbelievable! I have a theory that what we can’t see we don’t worry about or pay attention to until something goes wrong…
As we all know with any health issue prevention is better than firefighting, so …
Firstly check out your vagina – know what is normal for you – yes I am absolutely serious no-one else is going to take responsibility for your vagina or casually ask you over coffee how it is and there’s no point going on the internet they all look different in some way! So, if your vagina is currently healthy with no apparent abnormal discharge or ill health check it out so you have something to refer to if at any time in the future it changes. Internally and externally everyone – very important to then be able to judge if your pelvic floor exercises, which of course you are all doing regularly, are working ! See previous post : http://letstalkmenopause.co.uk/pelvic-floor-advice-lead-physiotherapist-jackie-montgomery/
Ok so what could potentially start going on when you hit the peri menopause… I thought a list to refer to would be useful, but please don’t get alarmed always remember everyone experiences these potential symptoms in different ways and to differing degrees so …you might hardly ever notice anything but then there are women who unfortunately get the kitchen sink thrown at them and suffer extraordinarily severe symptoms.
- Vaginal atrophy ( thinning of vaginal tissues )
- Vaginal irritation, dryness or soreness
- More infections due to change in acidity levels of vagina – always find out if it’s a bacterial infection or a fungal infection as they can present with similar symptoms but are treated in different ways.
- Cervical secretions are decreased leading to reduced lubrication.
- Urinary problems including frequency, urgency, leakage or recurrent UTIs
- Overactive bladder
- Reduced sex drive / loss of libido
- Intercourse can be painful, uncomfortable
With all the above potential symptoms you have to remember that there are always other contributing factors and you must rule out these first and seek medical help from your primary care rather than self medicating. Only 40% women are said to be affected, personally having run my workshops I think that percentage is higher it just goes unreported.
A couple of ways to treat your symptoms, firstly find yourself a really good moisturising lubricant, here lies the first stumbling block for most women, let’s face it, it’s the last thing you want to go and find on the shelves of your local pharmacy or ask to be directed to in Boots, plus there is so much choice – quite bamboozling. When I first started researching the menopause and doing information and awareness courses I made sure I found a product which covered all bases; meaning I wanted to be able to signpost women to a good natural product as an alternative to any hormonal treatment that could be prescribed.
Sylk makes just this product – their moisturising lubricant is paraben free and hormonal free, in addition, the people who run Sylk are not only extremely professional but genuinely care about womens’ health. An established product it covers both bases of moisturising and providing lubrication should it be required. It is also prescribable on the NHS. I have recommended it to so many women who have found it invaluable.
Another asset is that if you find your vaginal symptoms are severe and you need to go down the route of getting vaginal oestrogen prescribed it is still safe to use Sylk in conjunction with the oestrogen – hurrah!
Just a reminder though that we are obviously all made differently and one product does not suit all, so if Sylk doesn’t work for you there are many more very good products out there.
Alternatively your GP can prescribe vaginal oestrogen which has remarkable results.
Different ways of administering : vaginal cream, pessary, slow release vaginal tablets or rings.
The advantage of vaginal treatment is that oestrogen is delivered directly to the oestrogen depleted tissues, so localised treatment, avoiding any significant systemic absorption.
The amount of oestrogen used is very low, being between 7.5 & 10 micrograms in comparison to the 1 – 2 milligrams in systemic HRT. The adverse publicity for HRT and the mistaken belief that local treatment for vaginal atrophy is similar to systemic HRT can put women off.
HRT now that is definitely a topic for another post…
- Identify symptoms
- Naturally treat using vaginal moisturisers / lubricants
- Or medically treat using prescribed vaginal oestrogen
- Or use both of the above
- Don’t forget to do your pelvic floor exercises
Some useful links
Sylk : https://sylk.co.uk
Vaginal art! : http://www.artrepresent.com/flowers-of-democracy-3/