Sex after menopause has been an unnecessarily painful experience for many women over age 50 in the United States. Health experts believe that nearly half of the 55 million women over age 50 experience some discomfort during sex. This includes discomfort from vulvar and vaginal dryness and atrophy. But health experts report that only 25 percent of the women report their symptoms to their doctor. Doctors find women are less likely to talk about sex than arthritis or a headache.
Women’s health experts believe there is a certain stigma about aging in American society today that suggests why women will rarely discuss discomfort during intercourse. They are quick to talk about hot flashes, emotional changes and insomnia, but rarely will they discuss the burning sensation they will feel during intercourse, according to Dr. Susan Kellogg-Spadt, who is a specialist in pelvic and sexual health. She says the underlying issue is simple. Just as the face and neck wrinkle and lose moisture, so does genitalia. Its simply aging skin, according to Dr.Kellogg Spadt. After menopause, there will be a new “normal” for women, but sex after menopause should never be painful, according to Dr. Kellogg-Spadt.
There are a variety of remedies available for woman experiencing painful sex, according to Dr. Kellogg-Spadt. She recommends regular sexual activity and sometimes prescription medication to keep the tissues healthier. According to Dr. Kellogg-Spadt, sexual activity generates more blood flow, which is healthier for the tissues. Lubricants make sex after menopause more comfortable, but creams and lotions are needed to moisturize delicate tissues, according to Dr. Kellogg-Spadt. She also recommends the use of four different prescription medications that are available to treat vaginal atrophy with low-dose estrogen.
Dr. Ann L. Steiner, an Associate Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, has suggested that there has been a noticeable lack of education about menopause. She says that Penn now requires all residents to do a rotation in the menopause clinic. She stated it is important to put menopause on the radar for doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners. The lifespan of women today is 81 and the average age of menopause is 51, according to Dr. Steiner. She cites it is a considerable portion of life involved.
The North American Menopause Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health has established a new terminology for the general condition of painful sex after menopause. They believe the term GSM, or Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause, will make it easier for women to raise the issue with their medical practitioners. It’s much easier for women to say they are suffering from GSM, as opposed to saying they are suffering from painful sex, when discussing the problem with their doctor, according the North American Menopause Society. They believe if the new terminology works, fewer women will suffer in silence.
Japanese pharmaceutical Shionogi Inc. has received approval from the FDA to market Osphena, a prescription medication that claims to treat moderate to severe problems associated with painful sex. Their advertisements boost that sex after menopause shouldn’t have to hurt.
By John J. Poltonowicz