The average woman in the United States is 51 years old when she goes through menopause. Menopause marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle, and is diagnosed when 12 months have passed without a menstrual period.
There are several common side effects that can occur during menopause. Some are talked about often: hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes and a slow metabolism. But there are other side effects that aren’t discussed as often, perhaps because they’re uncomfortable to talk about. But the reality is, they are common for many women. Painful sexual intercourse and vaginal dryness are both likely to happen during menopause.
During menopause, estrogen levels decrease, and vaginal tissue becomes more sensitive and susceptible to injury, which can lead to pain, especially during sexual intercourse. It’s estimated that 20 to 30 percent of women experience this during menopause. In addition to fragile vaginal tissue, other factors can contribute to intercourse pain, such as injury or trauma from childbirth, pelvic surgery or any other type of accident.
Another side effect from the decreased estrogen levels is vaginal dryness. This can also be caused or enhanced by medications like antidepressants or those for high blood pressure. Dryness can lead to issues with sexual intercourse as well, making it painful or even impossible.
All of this can lead to chronic pain, stress, fear of intimacy and even relationship difficulties.
If you’re going through menopause and experiencing either of these two symptoms, it’s important that you speak with your doctor. There are a number of treatment options, which begin with a comprehensive exam, and discussion about your history to get a better understanding of what is contributing to the uncomfortable side effects.
Obstetrician/Gynecologist Chuck Werner, M.D., sees patients at MidMichigan Obstetrics & Gynecology in Midland and delivers babies at MidMichigan Medical Center – Midland. To learn more or schedule an appointment, contact his office at (989) 631-6730.