A.Vogel Talks Menopause: Let's talk about those intimate issues – low libido, vaginal dryness and painful sex

Eileen Durward
Ask Eileen

07 December 2015

Read the full video transcript below

1. Low libido

Now, low libido is a huge issue in the menopause and I get many women emailing or phoning up in total distress because they suddenly find that they don’t actually feel like sex anymore; there’s also the worry that their partners will think something is wrong as well. So what’s actually happening here to cause this? Well, your hormone oestrogen is basically your feel-good hormone – it gives you energy, it actually makes you feel sexy – and as you start to approach the menopause, your oestrogen levels can start to fall, and this can actually affect how the way you feel about sex, and how you actually respond to it as well.

So what can you do if you feel that your libido is slightly falling? One of the most important things is to talk to your partner about this, explain to them why you feel in this particular way and get them on your side to start with. Then you can actually look at taking remedies that may actually be able to help. We have plant oestrogens which are very, very gentle, but they can help to raise and balance out your oestrogen levels, and sometimes that might be all that you actually need. You can also look at herbs such as maca and ginseng as well – they can help to give you a little bit of a pep up.

But there’s other things going on in the menopause that can affect your libido as well. We’re always busy, you know I do say that menopausal woman should go away for a year and find themselves and have absolutely nothing to do, which I think would be wonderful, but at this particular point in our lives, just when we should be winding down, we tend to be the busiest – we may have family at home, we might be working, we might be looking after elderly parents as well – so not only are there great hormonal changes going on in the body which can cause fatigue but we’re going to be run ragged a lot of the time as well, and very often it’s just a combination of the two actually causing this particular problem.

2. Vaginal dryness

Now, one of the big problems that can be associated with low libido is vaginal dryness and this is another huge issue in the menopause, so what actually causes it, what is going on to cause this particular problem? It’s oestrogen again, and oestrogen is responsible for stimulating the production of mucus in the vagina.

Now this mucus does a couple of things – it helps to keep the vagina infection-free, but it also helps to lubricate the vagina walls, keeping them soft and supple – so when your oestrogen levels start to fall, this can have an effect on the health of the vagina, you may find you are getting more irritations, you can get repeat thrush infections, you might start to feel really itchy, but the low oestrogen can also affect the thickness and suppleness of the vagina walls as well, and that can be another issue, especially when we come to painful sex.

So what can you do about this particular problem? Well, there’s a really lovely supplement called Sea Buckthorn Oil, and this is known to keep the vagina plump and moist, if you like, so it’s certainly worth trying, can maybe take 4-6 weeks to start showing some improvement. You could also look at the phyto-oestrogen supplements as well that can actually help.

But it’s really important here, the falling oestrogen can also affect the consistency, colour and smell of the vaginal mucus, and some women start to panic because they think they’ve got infections going on. This is perfectly natural in most instances, but if you start to get a lot of itching, a lot of soreness, and any kind of smelly discharge, then it’s really important to get this checked out by your doctor, just in case there’s any underlying infection going on.

3. Painful sex

Now, painful sex is a big issue as well. You may still feel like it, but find that it’s so uncomfortable or really, really painful, and some women actually find that they bleed a little bit after sex as well. This is all to do with the fact that the vaginal walls are being affected by the lack of mucus; they are getting thinner; they are getting more fragile; and they’re just not moving enough as well, and this can cause a lot of problems during sex, and it’s more to do with friction, if you like, can actually tear or really irritate the vaginal walls, and that can cause the after-sex bleeding.

Now, another thing to really be careful of here is that you can get something called a prolapse, and a prolapse is where the, what we would call the pelvic girdle muscles that holds up that vagina, the womb, the bladder and also the bowel, and what can happen is these muscles can actually relax or become weaker, and these internal organs can start to shift, and sometimes they can actually put pressure on the vaginal walls, so if you’re actually finding that you’ve got a dragging feeling, again, if you’re getting painful sex as well, then it’s really important that you go and get this checked out with your doctor just to make sure that there’s nothing else going on with a prolapse.

Until next week...

Now, I hope this discussion has actually helped, but if you have any other questions, then please do let me know. Next time, I’m going to be answering more of your questions that you’ve been sending in, so I do hope you can join me next week for another edition of A.Vogel Talks Menopause.

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