Women going through menopause likely expect hot flashes, sleepless nights and weight struggles. They might not expect it to make sex painful, but that’s often a disconcerting reality. Learn why it doesn’t have to be a part of your reality.
Women talk openly about managing the hot flashes and fluctuating emotions that mark the hormonal changes of menopause. TV shows hawk cooling sheets and pillows aimed at women who are trying to get a little sleep through this “change” in their lives. Weight gain and how to fight it is a hot topic for any group of women going through menopause. But few women will talk openly about the unwanted impact on their sex life.
The simple fact is that menopause does change your sex life. Many of these symptoms and effects can single-handedly cause sex to be uncomfortable. When they combine, they can make intercourse extremely painful. So women can have a choice between approaching sex with significant fear or avoiding it altogether.
The painful changes of menopause
As women enter menopause, their estrogen levels drop. Their ovaries stop maturing eggs every month, so they’re no longer fertile. Because the vagina no longer needs to stretch enough to accommodate the head of a baby, the body no longer keeps the tissue strong and supple. This leaves the vagina drier and often causes a reduction in collagen.
Just like the skin elsewhere, the collagen layer supports the surface tissue of the vagina. As the collagen level breaks down, the tissue of the vagina thins out. And as time passes, the vagina can actually begin to collapse in on itself, making the opening smaller. Dryness, thin tissue and a smaller opening all contribute to painful sex.
Women have tried various methods to lessen the sex-related pain. Most stores offer over-the-counter lubricants designed to be used during sex. A discussion with Dr. Bruner can also yield a variety of solutions.
Vaginal creams with estrogen can feed the tissue, strengthening it and restoring it more closely to the skin of younger days. Hormone replacement therapy using either pills or patches can relieve some or all of the symptoms for as long as you take the medication. But many women can’t take hormones. Women with a history of breast or uterine cancers, for example, shouldn’t take estrogen since it may affect tumor growth.
Additionally, women with a history of blood clots should also forgo hormone replacement since it can heighten their risk. But chemicals aren’t the only solutions.
MonaLisa Touch® is a treatment that uses lasers to enhance your vaginal tissue. Dr. Bruner inserts a small probe into your vagina that bathes the tissue with laser energy. The energy penetrates the top layer of tissue, exciting the collagen layer beneath.
In the days after the treatment, your collagen cells begin to divide, giving your vagina more support. Dr. Bruner generally recommends three treatments, six weeks apart, to give your body a chance to heal between visits.
What to expect during treatment
During your treatment, you’ll be seated on an exam table just like during your annual pelvic exam. Dr. Bruner will insert the MonaLisa touch probe into your vagina. You may feel a slight warmth or tingling during the treatment, but it should take only about five minutes.
After the procedure, Dr. Bruner prefers that you don’t lift heavy objects and urges you to refrain from intercourse for a couple of days. You may experience some benefits almost immediately, but it’s important that you finish the course of treatment to get full benefits from the procedure.
Just because you have entered into a new phase in your life doesn’t mean giving up sexual pleasure with your partner. Give Dr. Bruner a call and discuss what you can do together to ensure that you’ll stay healthy inside and out.