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The last menopause taboo: vaginal dryness

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Lavinia Winch

The YES YES Company Ambassador / Medical Liaison

It may not be a glamorous subject, but vaginal dryness is seriously affecting the quality of life for thousands of women, despite being easily treatable.

When it comes to menopause, women are often far more likely to talk about hot flushes, night sweats or brain fog than they are about another common symptom – vaginal dryness.

The British Menopause Society estimates that 58% of post-menopausal women suffer from this embarrassing issue, yet it can be treated very easily.

Symptoms may start off as soreness, burning, itching and more frequent urinary tract infections as well as painful sex. The culprit? Usually a decrease in oestrogen levels.

This means that women experiencing a medical or surgical menopause, due to breast or gynaecological cancer treatment, are also at risk, as are women after hysterectomy whose ovaries have been removed.

The key is to look for organic, natural solutions that are pH balanced to maintain a healthy vaginal environment and avoid thrush and bacterial infections.

A taboo issue

“The problem is that vaginal dryness is still a taboo issue,” says 67-year old Lavinia Winch, an Ambassador for The YES YES Company.

Women aren’t comfortable talking about vaginal dryness and it is known to be under-reported due to embarrassment, but the GP should be their first step for a diagnosis.

Lavinia’s role includes liaising with women’s health specialists and raising awareness of vaginal dryness, which can sometimes be misdiagnosed as thrush because the symptoms may be similar.

It is important for GPs to offer an examination to achieve the correct diagnosis and distinguish between dryness and the more severe vaginal atrophy (when vaginal tissues become thinner and more fragile due to oestrogen depletion) or other vulval conditions.

“I struggled for years”

Lavinia herself first experienced the condition after childbirth. She says: “Vaginal dryness can occur with hormonal changes, such as during breastfeeding. Certain drug treatments including allergy and cold medications and some antidepressants, can also affect vaginal tissue. “I struggled for years believing that I needed to use additional lubrication, but over-the-counter products just irritated me further. Once I found a more natural alternative, the result was instant.”

While there are a variety of products available for vaginal dryness, including hormonal and non-hormonal alternatives, Lavinia cautions that women should look for products that avoid concerning chemicals and known vaginal irritants such as glycerin, glycols and parabens (which are thought to mimic oestrogen and so are problematic for women with hormone sensitive conditions)

She says: “The key is to look for organic, natural solutions that are pH balanced to maintain a healthy vaginal environment and avoid thrush and bacterial infections. Vaginal moisturisers are great for everyday use, whereas lubricants are better for intercourse. Women also need to understand that, if you stop using the product, the vaginal dryness will return.”

For women who can’t find a solution in the pharmacy, Lavinia advocates speaking to your GP, as they should be able to prescribe tailored treatments and can refer you to a vulval specialist if required.

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