The menstrual cycle is a natural part of every woman’s life. From adolescence to old age, women’s bodies — especially the reproductive organs — go through many changes, all thanks to the hormonal changes that accompany menstruation.
However, once women arrive at the end of their reproductive years, usually around the late 40s or early 50s, the menstrual cycle begins to wind down, eventually coming to a complete stop. This process is called menopause. In the United States, the average menopausal age is 51 years. You’re considered to have reached menopause when you haven’t had a period for at least a year.
Because the menstruation process is mainly driven by female sex hormones like estrogen, once the cycle halts, hormone levels also correspondingly fall sharply. Estrogen is mainly responsible for lubricating the skin around the vagina, keeping the tissues flexible, and maintaining the vagina’s acidic pH. As estrogen levels continue to fall, there can be many adverse changes to the vagina.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about the effects of menopause on vaginal health and how to deal with them.
Vaginal Changes After Menopause
Menopause doesn’t occur in a day but is a gradual process of transition that happens over months and years. This process is characterized by several physical symptoms like irregular periods (perimenopause), hot flashes, sleep and mood changes, weight gain, chills or night sweats, hair fall, and skin dryness.
In addition, the drop in estrogen levels causes a thinning of the vaginal lining and a shortening and narrowing of the vaginal canal. This phenomenon is called vaginal atrophy or atrophic vaginitis.
One of the first signs is a decrease in vaginal fluids, causing vaginal dryness. Other symptoms include:
- Vaginal itching or burning
- Pain during sex (dyspareunia)
- Vaginal discharge (usually yellow)
- Spotting or bleeding
- Feelings of pressure or tightness
You may also experience urinary symptoms like stress incontinence, painful or burning urination, increased frequency or amount of urination, and blood in the urine.
Gynecologists can usually detect signs of vaginal atrophy during pelvic exams and may even recommend other tests if required. Hence, it’s important to get regular gynecologic checkups so that you can be treated early. Don’t hesitate to be frank with your doctor and honest about your concerns.
How to Keep Your Vagina Healthy After Menopause
Here are some of the treatments that your doctor may recommend based on your symptoms:
Vaginal moisturizers or water-based lubricants
These are usually available over the counter. They’re useful for increasing the moisture levels in your vagina and relieving vaginal dryness. They can also decrease friction during sex, making the experience more pleasant.
Topical estrogen products are great for increasing vaginal lubrication, improving vaginal health, and minimizing menopausal symptoms.
These are a special set of exercises for improving the strength of the pelvic floor. They can increase blood circulation to the vagina and control menopausal symptoms.
This is a painless, noninvasive outpatient procedure for rejuvenating the vagina using a CO2 laser. It can help with problems like vaginal dryness, recurrent vaginal infections, urinary incontinence, and more.
Try Femilift at NVSCC
At Nevada Surgery & Cancer Care (NVSCC), we can help you rejuvenate your vagina, address all your feminine concerns, and provide safe and effective treatment solutions to all your gynecologic problems.