Vaginal Dryness after Menopause - Things Every Women Needs to Know
Whoever said that life begins at 40, didn't wait until perimenopause hits and changed their attitude. Menopause describes a slowdown in hormone production that occurs in women anywhere from 40-years old onwards.
Most women enter menopause in their 50s, but the condition can occur sooner or later, depending on their unique biology. When menopause starts, it's a sign that your body is no longer fertile, and it starts shutting down reproductive processes.
The brain also signals for a reduction in estrogen production – the primary female hormone involved with well-being. Progesterone declines alongside estrogen, and some women feel the effects of this hormonal slowdown more than others.
Noticing the onset of vaginal dryness after menopause is a common symptom of the condition. The Bartholin's glands positioned at the front of the vagina are responsible for secreting lubrication during arousal and sexual intercourse.
However, the hormone production changes end up affecting the health of the Bartholin's glands, causing them to atrophy. The tissues in the vaginal wall and labia start to thin, making sexual intercourse and penetration painful for most women. This process, known as "vaginal atrophy," signals the end of a women's childbearing years.
Is there a Difference Between Menopause and Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the period before the onset of menopause. During perimenopause, the body starts to prepare for the coming change. The preparation for the transition into menopause involves a slowdown in hormone production from your ovaries. They no longer produce viable eggs and start to close the body's reproductive capabilities.
The changes in hormone production often lead to symptoms like hot flashes and changes in the menstrual cycle. You might find that your periods become irregular, and you wake up with night sweats once or twice a week. The process is different for everyone, but there are common threads across all cases.
After your stop having a menstrual cycle for 12-months, you'll officially be in menopause.
What are the Common Signs of a Slowdown in Estrogen Production?
Around 75% of women state that the most common symptom of menopause during the perimenopausal period is the hot flush or hot flash, regardless of what you want to call it, the effect id the same.
A hot flush feels like your body temperature rising suddenly. You might feel a slight layer of sweat and heat between your legs, in your chest, and your face. These flushes can come on suddenly or build gradually for hours.
The intensity and duration of the hot flush also vary from person to person, depending on their hormonal status. Hot flushes can occur during the day or night, and some women awake from sleep to notice the onset of the flush.
Other common conditions associated with the slowdown in hormone production during the perimenopausal period include the following.
- Muscle and joint pain
- A loss in bone density
- Mood swings
It's challenging for physicians to determine if the extent of your symptoms. The variations could occur due to the changes in your hormone profile or your lifestyle habits.
Do Women Gain Weight in Menopause?
Some women may find that the changes in hormone production result in changes in their appetite. The hormones ghrelin and leptin manage our appetite, and they have some link to healthy estrogen levels in the body. Some women experience cravings for sugar and junk food when they start to experience perimenopause.
As a result, they tend to gain weight. The slowdown in estrogen also affects metabolism, and you start burning fewer calories with your resting metabolic rate – which leads to weight gain in some individuals.
Being overweight can also put you at risk of developing other adverse medical conditions as you age. Overweight women may speed up osteoporosis induced by menopause and the leaching of calcium from the skeletal system.
Getting in some regular exercise and eating a healthy diet is a vital part of slowing the effects of the aging process on your body. Make sure you eat a nutritious, balanced diet, and supplement with additional calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, and Vitamin D.
If I've Had a Hysterectomy, How Do I Know When Menopause Starts?
Some women have the uterus removed before menopause officially starts. This procedure, known as a hysterectomy, does not bring on the early onset of menopause. When perimenopause symptoms begin, the first thing you'll notice is hot flushes, but that's about the worst of it.
This flush also happens if you have an endometrial ablation where you still have your ovaries. Endometrial ablation involves the removal of your uterine lining to treat issues with heavy menstruation. If you don't receive symptoms, your doctor uses a blood test to determine your ovaries' functional status. The testing helps physicians determine your estrogen levels, which is useful as a benchmark of your overall health. Low estrogen levels accelerate other adverse health conditions associated with menopause, such as osteoporosis. If you test with low levels, your doctor may send you for a bone density assessment.
Is Hormone Replacement Therapy a Safe Option?
When women enter menopause, it's possible to ensure that they don't have to deal with the adverse effects of the aging process. By supplementing your hormone levels with exogenous medication, your doctor can ensure that you feel as right as a rain all-year-round.
Your hormonal system still goes through the same changes, but your body has the estrogen it needs to ensure you don't suffer the effects of vaginal atrophy and depression. There are several FDA-approved HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) medications available to help you navigate menopause.
What are the Non-Hormonal Options for Treating the Effects of Menopause?
While HRT is effective at helping women manage the effects of menopause, some don't like the idea of relying on medication. Furthermore, HRT is only useful if you start it as menopause begins, or in the few years after noticing its onset.
Trying HRT after the age of 60 can result in life-threatening consequences, such as cardiovascular disease.
Hormone therapy may not be the right choice for you.
If HRT is not the right solution, try other OTC medications and homeopathic options to help you cope.