Like Sands Through the Hourglass…
Or why your vagina is feeling arid and irritated lately.
We start today with a shoutout to MySoCalledMidlife readers who joined us this week. Welcome to thePause!
This week, we partnered with Kindra, maker of estrogen-free products for menopause self-care. Check out their link and our promo code below for 15% off.
There, we said it. It’s something so many of us feel, but extremely few (none?) would ever broadcast.
These days, your lower parts might bring to mind a remote Saharan desert: arid and parched. (Or perhaps it’s memories of a boring ex-boyfriend: dull and lifeless.)
A dry vagina is one of the most irritating (#pun) aspects of menopause.
You may feel all alone — but trust us, you’re not.
More than half of all post-menopausal women — and probably more since many of us are too embarrassed to talk about it or dismiss it as unimportant — suffer from vaginal dryness. In fact, only about a quarter of us suffering from vaginal dryness seek medical help for it.
A little primer.
Vaginal dryness (which can also occur during perimenopause or as a result of cancer treatments) falls under the umbrella name of “vulvovaginal atrophy.” A long word, yes, so let’s just call it VVA.
The culprit? Estrogen. Pre-menopause, estrogen helped to keep your vagina lubricated and supple with a thin layer of liquid, smooth as a calm sea.
However, as estrogen sinks, vaginal discomfort rises, bringing itchiness, burning and irritation along for the ride. Every now and then, your less-lubricated vagina might feel tender or sore or may chafe, tear or bleed when you exercise or have sex.
Aside from making sex uncomfortable, this dryness can also make something as ordinary as urinating extra-ordinarily irritating. You might find yourself running to the bathroom more often. (Are you up at 3 a.m., too??) Soon you may find yourself experiencing more frequent urinary tract infections or seeing thin, watery yellowish discharges.
Rest assured — it’s all normal.
Though vaginal dryness is hardly life-threatening, it can interfere with your life. Surveys find that about 1 in 4 women say this condition gets in the way of sleep, affects their moods and even forces their choice of clothing.
Photo by Kyle Cottrell on Unsplash
How you and your vagina can co-exist peacefully
Be kind to your vagina and it will be kind to you. First, when it comes to self-cleaning, put down the soap and stick with plain water, which the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) says is sufficient to clean the inner parts of your nether regions.
Other NAMS suggestions include:
Over-the-counter (non-hormonal) vaginal lubricants and/or moisturizers. Moisturizers help the vaginal tissues lubricants can make sex more comfortable.
Prescription low-dose estrogen that goes directly into the vagina via creams, vaginal rings or tablets. This is the “treatment of choice,” according to many experts. A very small amount is absorbed into the bloodstream, but it’s about 100 times less than estrogen pills.
You’ll be happy to know that a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that any of these products, when used regularly, made a big difference. (No surprise that the researchers had no trouble recruiting women for this study, now is it?)
There are also doctor-administered vaginal laser treatments which, by making tiny holes in the vaginal lining, can do for your vagina what they’ve done for our faces: help to increase blood flow and encourage the growth of new, healthy tissue.
There’s also some buzz about soybeans and their role in improving symptoms of vaginal dryness. That’s because the isoflavones contained by soybeans are thought to have a similar (but weaker) effect on the body as estrogen does. But research here is ongoing and there’s no definite recommendation. (That same is true for creams containing wild yam and herbs containing black cohosh.)
Make sure to check out all options with your healthcare provider (Trust us, they won’t be surprised when you bring the issue up. And if they are surprised? Well, then you can teach them the facts of life.)
As a chronic condition with no real cure, vaginal dryness requires treatment for as long as your symptoms persist, meaning that by making it part of your everyday routine, like brushing your teeth, you can make a real difference!
For a Pause
If you’re not all in for a heavy blanket for a better night’s sleep, you might want to consider this alternative, which brings the popular weighted trend to your sleep mask. Sweet dreams.
PSA: If you sometimes leak when you sneeze or laugh — another lovely by-product of menopause — don’t use menstrual pads or pantiliners. These will keep the wetness against your skin and can contribute to irritation. Instead, use incontinence pads or liners. You’re welcome.
Is it time to detox? When Baebody sent its new 14-day Detox Tea to Jennifer, it got her thinking of all the cheat foods and drinks that have been helping her through the pandemic. Maybe it’s time for a reset? Want to try it for us and let us know what you think? Reply to this email and we’ll share!
Tomorrow marks National Flex Day, the holiday Jennifer founded in 2013 to spotlight the power of flexible work to help us deal with everything from new babies and aging parents to hot flashes and migraines. Back then, 5 percent of us were working from home full-time. Now 42 percent of us are, whether we want to or not. Share your very different #NationalFlexDay story with us tomorrow!
A Word from our Pause Partner
Start your menopause self-care regimen at Kindra, home to plant-powered essentials, tailored to ease the common symptoms of menopause. Use our promo code PAUSE15 to save 15 percent. Learn more here.
One More Thing
Remember the moment Luke finally found Laura? (The pandemic will get you thinking about the oddest things!)
Big hair, plans to freeze the world (?!) and oh, yes, life and love at General Hospital. #NoahDrakeForever
People are talkin', talkin' 'bout people
I hear them whisper, you won't believe it
They think we're lovers kept under covers
I just ignore it, but they keep saying
We laugh just a little too loud
We stand just a little too close
We stare just a little too long
Maybe they're seeing something we don't, darlin'
— Something to Talk About, Bonnie Raitt
Know someone who could use a Pause? Why not share us with them? Thanks so much!