You long for the day when you no longer have to worry about the arrival of your monthly period, but this gain is often quickly replaced by a new set of concerns called genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM). Also referred to as vaginal atrophy or atrophic vaginitis, this condition can affect your sex life, your health, and your overall quality of life.
Here at Tahoe Women’s Care, our team helps women through every stage of their lives, from puberty, through childbearing, and on past menopause. Under the direction of Dr. Gary Willen, we offer the products and services you need to navigate your reproductive health with relative ease.
If you’ve transitioned through menopause and are experiencing changes in your vaginal health, here’s a look at three of the more common side effects and why they occur.
1. Painful sex and vaginal dryness
The passage through menopause occurs when your ovaries shut down and no longer release any eggs. While storing and releasing eggs was a primary function of your ovaries, they’re also the main suppliers of the reproductive hormone called estrogen. This hormone casts a wide net over your reproductive health, which can be made quite clear when its levels drop.
For example, your estrogen hormones ensure that your vaginal tissues are strong, healthy, and well-lubricated in order to encourage intercourse and childbirth. When your estrogen levels drop, your vaginal tissue can thin and dry out, which can make sex painful. In fact, more than 50% of postmenopausal women between the ages of 51 and 60 in the United States report issues with vaginal dryness.
In addition to thinning and drying out, your vaginal canal may also shorten, which can contribute to sexual dysfunction.
2. Burning and itching
Due to the loss of tissue health, you can experience burning and itching in your vagina. This itchiness can also affect your outer genitalia, creating a potentially embarrassing problem as you try to find relief.
3. Urinary issues
The side effects of atrophic vaginitis include urinary symptoms, such as:
- Burning with urination
- Frequent urination
- Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
All of these symptoms are also tied back to the loss of estrogen and subsequent loss of tissue health. As an example, the pH balance in your vagina can change, leaving you more vulnerable to infection.
Restoring vaginal health
There are several approaches that we can take to offset the effects of GSM, including:
- Hormone replacement therapies
- MonaLisa TouchⓇ treatments
In addition to these highly effective therapies, there are also a few things you can do on your own, starting with increasing sexual activity, which improves blood flow to your vaginal tissues. You can also ask us about specialized exercises (called Kegels), which help strengthen your pelvic floor to improve incontinence issues.
If you have more questions about genitourinary syndrome of menopause, please contact our office in Carson City, Nevada, to set up an appointment.