As we age, our bodies change and evolve: for women, that means going through menopause. Understanding and managing menopause-related changes in your intimate health can be a huge learning curve for women.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered. So let’s get into it.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is defined as the phase of a woman’s life when her menstrual cycle stops. Medically, a woman is in menopause once she has not gotten her period for one year. The beginning of menopause means that you can no longer conceive; hormone production from your ovaries has ceased.
Although we say “menopause” colloquially as a catch-all for women who have gone through menopause, it is actually just that moment of not having menstruation for a year. Perimenopause is the phase leading up to menopause, and post-menopause is the lifetime after (and this is likely what you think of when a woman says she is “menopausal”).
Most women go through menopause in their 40s or 50s, but perimenopause can actually begin much earlier. Unfortunately, this means earlier symptoms of menopause as well.
Common Symptoms During Menopause
During menopause, there is a big drop in the amount of estrogen in your body. This will have several impacts on your physical health. For example:
- Decrease in bone density. The lower levels of estrogen in your body prevents calcium from being absorbed into your bones as efficiently. This can lead to osteoporosis, so taking calcium supplements and eating foods rich in calcium is a must to prevent fractures and breaks.
- Weight gain. Both the change in hormones plus natural aging and body changes may lead to weight gain. As long as you stay active and take care of yourself, you shouldn’t experience any dangerous side effects due to weight gain.
- Thinner, looser skin. As you age (and thus enter post-menopause), the collagen of your skin depletes, leading to thinner skin. It’s important to moisturize with lotions specifically formulated for your skin to combat this.
Everyone knows at least a few of the most common side effects associated with menopause. Some things you should expect when you begin menopause:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
But what does menopause mean specifically for your intimate health?
How Does Menopause Relate to My Intimate Health
These changes listed above also have an impact on your intimate health.
For example, as your skin loses collagen through aging, the skin of your intimate area also changes. Your vulva can lose plumpness, and your vaginal canal itself can become less elastic. This means penetrative sex can become painful if you’re not careful.
Speaking of sex, it would be a lie to say that sex doesn’t change when you’re menopausal…but there is a totally untrue rumor circulating that sex has to completely stop when you go through menopause! The truth is, sex will be different, but it can still be fun, exciting, and enjoyable!
Since your estrogen levels will drop in the years leading up to menopause, chances are you will experience a lower sex drive and more challenges to becoming aroused. You can experience vaginal dryness, alongside the loss of elasticity; this can be painful and challenging without the right tools.
Managing Intimate Health During Menopause
If you’re having a really difficult time adjusting to your body during menopause, there are options out there for you. Since menopause (and its symptoms) is caused by a decrease in estrogen, hormone therapy is used to treat symptoms of menopause. These treatments include:
- Estrogen replacement pills
- Estrogen skin patches
- Estrogen creams, gels, and sprays
- Estrogen vaginal suppositories, rings, and creams
There are also non-hormonal treatments for menopause, like pursuing weight loss, exercise, the comfort of cooler temperatures, and the avoidance of food that triggers symptoms can all help reduce the effects of menopause.
For your intimate health, it’s important to focus on comfort. When you’re experiencing vaginal dryness and loss of elasticity, you should use lotions and creams (whether those contain added estrogen or not is up to you and your doctor) to maintain lubrication and moisture. During sex, it’s important to use lubricant and take it slow so there is no discomfort or pain due to tearing.
As for washing, it’s the same old story! Clean your vulva daily with water and a gentle cleanser, and let your vagina do its thing. That’s why products like Rejuvenate Vulva Cream and Nourish Cream Wash are formulated for you in mind; your intimate area already takes care of itself. These items will protect your natural pH and ecosystem, while still maintaining the height of comfort and cleanliness.
You also need to stay on top of your regular doctor’s appointments; keeping a regular schedule with your OB/GYN is crucial to maintaining your intimate health. Your doctor will make sure your treatment plan is on par with your expectations, explain the specific changes you are going through, and make sure everything is working as it should.
As always, it’s about listening to your body and finding out what works for you. Although your body will change, it doesn’t mean you don’t still deserve comfort, health, and connection.