Vaginal dryness is the least discussed menopause symptom, yet it is estimated that 32 million American woman experience it. Because it causes pain during intercourse, it often leads to a decrease in sexual interest and activity. This has strained relationships.
Vaginal dryness is caused by a condition called vaginal atrophy. Vaginal atrophy is a condition in which the vaginal wall gets thinner and it gets inflamed. It occurs during menopause when there is a reduction in levels of estrogen. The symptoms of vaginal atrophy include vaginal burning, itching, dryness and irritation.
Vaginal dryness has had a significant impact on relationships, yet studies have found that women do not tend to talk about this symptom with friends, peers and their doctors.
Dr James A. Simon, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC, and past president of the North American Menopause society led the Clarifying Vaginal Atrophy’s Impact on Sex and Relationships (CLOSER) study…..that looked into the affect that vaginal atrophy had on relationships. He concluded that most women are not comfortable talking about their vaginal symptoms and so vaginal atrophy goes untreated. It is estimated that as many as 32 million women in the U.S. alone may experience vaginal dryness but only 7% get treatment for it.
Dr Simon said “We need a well-respected, visible, menopausal woman to bring this to the masses, because now we have survey data that say it’s not only prevalent, it’s not being adequately treated and it’s affecting relationships.” An Oscar nominated actress, Virginia Madsen, is now a spokeswoman for this issue. This is what she had to say
“When I found out how many women don’t talk about their painful intercourse, I was surprised.
It amazes me that in this day and age, when it seems there is no topic considered off limits, that so many postmenopausal women remain silent,” said Virginia Madsen. “It’s very important for women to know they’re not alone. The more women who are able to find the right words to begin this conversation, the more widespread attention we can bring to this topic.”
later she said
“These days, about one-third of a woman’s life could be spent in her menopausal years. I’m a confidante to many of my close girlfriends and we talk a lot about what we are experiencing as our bodies change, and I can tell you that intimacy remains important to women at any age,” added Madsen.
As another recent study found that twenty-eight percent of women did not tell their partners when they first encountered vaginal dryness because ‘it was just a natural part of growing older’ (52%) or embarrassment (21%), I am particularly pleased to learn about the Finding the Words website. The purpose of this site is to help women to break their silence around this common but seldom discussed medical condition. It will provide you with information, tools and resources that will help you to begin this conversation with your partner and your healthcare provider.