"After menopause, there is a new normal," Kellogg Spadt said. "But sex should never, never be painful."”
If you have memories of your first time as being painful, then sex these days might just be giving you flashbacks. Hot flashes get a lot of attention, as do mood swings. But if you’re dry as a desert down there and intercourse is uncomfortable and painful, you may not be comfortable bringing it up with your doctor.
Here’s a number that might surprise you: HALF of the 55 million women over 50 in the U.S. suffer from vaginal dryness and atrophy. You know how many actually report it to their doctor? Only 25% of them. That’s a lot of women suffering in silence, and it’s making me angry.
Why do we feel like painful sex (or none at all) is something that we should just accept as we get older? Especially when there are so many treatment options out there? This article from the Philadelphia Inquirer is a good summary of what you can do for painful sex:
“In addition to making intercourse painful, changes in the vulva and vagina can lead to urinary and bladder problems.
“It’s not a woman’s fault, but the adage that if you don’t use it you lose it in this case is true,” Kellogg Spadt said – one of the downsides, she noted, of “going into early sexual retirement.”
Sexual activity creates more blood flow, which tends to keep the tissues “happier.”
Lubricants make sex more comfortable, but creams and lotions are required to moisturize delicate tissues. If more help is needed, at least four prescription medications are available to treat vaginal atrophy with low-dose topical estrogen.
A vaginal ring (akin to the now virtually extinct contraceptive diaphragm) releases the hormone gradually and is replaced every three months. There also are estrogen creams, and a tiny tablet suppository, that are used two or three times a week…
…And hip, back, or knee pain may throw off body mechanics and create spasms in the pelvic floor muscles. This, Steiner said, can be relieved with physical therapy. Vaginal tightening may be helped by the use of dilators.
“After menopause, there is a new normal,” Kellogg Spadt said. “But sex should never, never be painful.””
We totally agree. Both with the “new normal” thing and that sex should never have to be painful, ever. Whether you feel like having sex or not is a different story. But when you do, it should not have to hurt.
Talk to your doctor about your options, and be an advocate for your body, your health, and your happiness.