I hope you were able to join us for our recent live chat about vaginal dryness! If you missed it, check out the video at the bottom of this page, or keep reading for a quick recap.
If you did catch the live chat, were you embarrassed at first to watch it and hid behind closed doors to view it in secrecy? Were you afraid to “Like” it on Facebook in case some of your friends thought you were dealing with this “embarrassing” topic? If so, you’re not alone. It seems that many women find the topic of dry vagina to be taboo and difficult to discuss. But…if we can’t talk about it, how can we get to the solution?
I hope that after watching the live chat and/or reading this blog, you will no longer be afraid to discuss topics like dry vagina, sexual health, pain with sex, or even menopause.
Now that we’re past the embarrassment, let’s talk about who vaginal dryness affects, why it occurs, and treatment options for making it better.
Who does dry vagina affect?
You might think this is a problem only found in older women, but you will be surprised to learn that it can happen to women of all ages—even young women in their late teens and twenties. I have seen patients of all ages who were struggling with dry vagina:
- A 23-year-old leukemia patient.
- A 25-year-old who is on a low-dose estrogen birth control pill and has chronic bacterial vaginosis.
- A 36-year-old patient who has experienced chemotherapy-induced menopause.
- A 46-year-old who had surgery for severe endometriosis and had to have her ovaries and uterus removed.
- A 55-year-old who experienced natural menopause who didn’t use hormone therapy because she didn’t think it was safe to use.
- An 80-year old patient who wanted to start dating again.
As you can see, it doesn’t matter how old (or young) you are. Dry vagina affects a wide range of women and can be uncomfortable enough to impact your daily life. My goal is to help you find relief to be able to live your best life!
So, what is dry vagina and why does it occur?
The medical term for this issue is Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM), and it is an actual medical condition—not something just made up in a woman’s mind. GSM happens because of menopause, and in this instance, it occurs because of low estrogen. Symptoms of dry vagina include feeling itchy, irritated, or like sandpaper “down there.” You may also experience bleeding after sex, painful sex, discharge without any odor, or bladder urgency. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you could have GSM and should seek treatment.
The good news is there are several treatment options that are very effective and typically work quickly! If your regular practitioner isn’t familiar with dry vagina or you’re not getting the answers you need, it might be time to see someone who specializes in menopause. I recommend going to the North American Menopause Society’s (NAMS) website and looking for a Certified Menopause Practitioner (NCMP). There are 1,200 of us (yes, I am an NCMP!) throughout the country.
Treatment options for vaginal dryness
As I mentioned, there are a variety of treatment options, depending on your situation. If you are dealing with a dry vagina, and you are taking a low-dose birth control and are otherwise healthy, your provider might recommend switching to an IUD, a different type of pill, or a birth control ring (such as Annovera.) If you experienced menopause naturally and don’t have any risk factors that would prohibit you from taking hormone therapy, he or she might suggest starting an oral estrogen product such as Bijuva or using a local estrogen therapy (such as an Estrace cream). In addition, if you are experiencing mild symptoms, you may find relief by simply using a lube or oil during sex or Hyalo Gyn Cream applied twice a week.
One of the most innovative treatments for dry vagina (and other menopause symptoms) is called the MonaLisa laser therapy. I can’t say enough about this method—it’s safe, effective, and virtually painless. It is evidence-based and FDA-cleared, and it is a great option for someone who can’t or doesn’t want to use vaginal estrogen. I’m excited that we will be using the MonaLisa at true. Women’s Health as soon as we are able to open our doors for business.
Regardless of the treatment you and your healthcare provider choose, it’s comforting to know there are several options for you to try. Of course, if you are a patient at true. Women’s Health, we can talk with you about any of these treatments, including the MonaLisa laser therapy, and we will find the option that works best for YOU! It’s never too late to treat dry vagina and get back to living your best life.
– Dr. Bitner