When I'm with a bunch of women and they find out that I wrote a book about menopause, several things happen. First they ask me if it's true, "Really? What's it called?" Next someone talks about her hot flashes, and everyone commiserates, laughs and we discuss different treatments that might be helpful. We go on to other topics, bonded in "flash" sisterhood.
But later, almost invariably, I'll be walking away and one of the women will pull me aside. In a whisper, looking around to see if anyone is listening (it almost feels like she is about to ask me to hook her up with some high quality cocaine or chrystal meth) she will ask, "Is there anything yet for, you know, vaginal stuff?" At this point I am relieved, because I won't have to discuss her drug habit after all. Usually she is worried about having pain or bleeding with sex, and often it is becoming a relationship issue with her husband.
Women these days are pretty free to talk about hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and weight gain. We make jokes about those things, nod sympathetically, and trade herbal stories and doctor's names. But talking about painful sex, vaginal dryness or urinary tract symptoms is still a shameful little secret that we can't always share.
I'm not sure I ever want vaginal dryness to be dinner table conversation, but I do think it's time to bring this issue up with our doctors and medical providers. Most of the women I talk to have never discussed this with their primary physician, and most of them are pretty uncomfotable doing so. There are treatments that can help vaginal symptoms, and if it's a problem for you then it's a problem worth discussing with your doc.
So what's a girl to do? Don't suffer in silence if vaginal symptoms are hurting you or your relationships:
- Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and what treatments are good ones for you
- Try a vaginal lubricant. Here is a review article on personal lubricants that can help you choose the right one
- Check out herbal products. Black cohosh is one that is showing promise to relieve vaginal symptoms in menopause
Whatever you do, don't just give up and quietly let vaginal symptoms undermine your emotional health. Vaginal dryness is a big deal for a lot of women, and it's okay to ask for help.