Is Vaginal Dryness Out of the Closet?

It has been 4 years since my book co-authored with Wendy Klein MD, The Menopause Makeover, has been out in the world. The topic of menopause was a tough sell for my literary agent, and even tougher to promote. No one wanted to talk about the “M” word. But I knew that women everywhere, including myself, were suffering from this transition without the information they needed to manage a natural part of womanhood.

This month is Menopause Awareness Month, and I am excited to say that I have personally witnessed the word menopause come out of the closet of shame. The topic has starred in media headlines and eased into everyday conversation, because women started talking publically about it.

However, while it may be easier now to discuss hot flashes and menopausal weight gain, there is still one symptom many are still embarrassed to discuss with their doctor and partner…postmenopausal vaginal dryness.1

Since adding vaginal dryness last year as a bookend to my menopause mission, I am happy to report that I feel there has been progress publically, scientifically, and medically.

The North American Menopause Society defines menopause-related vaginal discomfort as:

“The dryness and thinning of the vagina that follows the drop in estrogen around menopause is the most common cause of painful sex at midlife and beyond.”2

Up to 75% of menopausal women may experience vaginal dryness; as well as irritation, burning, pain during urination, pain during sex, and vaginal discharge. 3,4

Unfortunately, the majority of women still do not seek treatment, but I was happy to discover this year that the medical and scientific world has marched forward and progress is being made.1

A survey published in the medical journal Climacteric in February 2014 recommended that health care providers start being proactive in order to help their patients disclose the symptoms related to vaginal dryness so they can discuss treatment options during the menopause discussion.5

I was impressed with a letter from the editors-in-chief of this publication, entitled: “Vulvovaginal Atrophy – A Tale of Neglect.” They acknowledged that “women and their sexual partners are … suffering in silence,” and urged the wider medical profession to urgently address and improve the situation.6

The first step for those who may be suffering in silence from postmenopausal vaginal dryness is to discuss symptoms with their health care provider. Before your first visit, you can track symptoms and use this worksheet to start the conversation.

Your symptoms are treatable and there are therapy options available.

An estimated 1.2 billion women will have reached menopause by 2030. Unlike hot flashes that generally settle down with time, menopause-related vaginal symptoms do not tend to get better with age.7

In just 1 year, I have seen postmenopausal vaginal dryness peek out of the closet. Don’t let this treatable symptom keep you from embracing this natural transition in a woman’s life.
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By Staness Jonekos, Author of The Menopause Makeover
I am a member of GLAM™ (Great Life After Menopause), a woman’s health initiative sponsored by Novo Nordisk.
Visit www.theOtherEd.com for more information on the vaginal symptoms associated with menopause and tips on how to speak with your doctor about them.

GLAM™ (Great Life After Menopause) is a trademark of Novo Nordisk FemCare AG.
© 2014 Novo Nordisk      All rights reserved.      0814-00022955-1        September 2014

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[1] Nappi RE, Kokot-Kierepa M. Vaginal Health: Insights, Views & Attitudes (VIVA) – Results from an International Survey. Climacteric. 2012;15(1):36-44.

[2] The North American Menopause Society Staff. Vaginal Discomfort. The North American Menopause Society. http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/causes-of-sexual-problems/vaginal-discomfort. Publish Date Unknown. Accessed September 3, 2014.

[3] Wines N, Willsteed E. Menopause and the skin. Australasian Journal of Dermatology. 2001;42(3):149-158.

[4] The North American Menopause Society Staff. Management of symptomatic vulvovaginal atrophy: 2013 position statement of The North American Menopause Society. Menopause. 2013;20(9):888-902.

[5] Nappi RE, Palacio S. Impact Of Vulvovaginal Atrophy on Sexual Health and Quality of Life at Postmenopause. Climacteric. 2014;17(1):3-9.

[6] Panay N, Fenton A. Vulvovaginal Atrophy – A Tale of Neglect. Climacteric. 2014;17(1):1-2.

[7] Sinha A, Ewies AAA. Non-hormonal Topical Treatment of Vulvovaginal Atrophy: An Up-to-date Overview. Climacteric. 2013;16(3); 305-312.

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