While this is a topic not often discussed, at least not in the open, it’s important to acknowledge that vaginal changes are a very real and often bothersome concern that women may experience at some point in their life.
In particular, this is especially true for women who are undergoing hormonal changes, either after a pregnancy or after the age of 40, as they are entering the stage of perimenopause and later, menopause.
As estrogen declines through perimenopause, the tissue in the vagina begins to change. These changes can include declining moisture levels, thinning of the tissue, painful urination, burning and itching along with urinary incontinence, which can all lead to increasing discomfort.
Vaginal dryness is also a common cause of declining libido for women, as sex may feel more uncomfortable, painful and less pleasurable.
However, just because hormonal changes are normal for a woman, doesn’t mean you need to suffer through them. There are many possible interventions to help support vaginal health, both locally and systemically.
Below, we’ve shared some of our most common tips and tricks for keeping your vagina happy and healthy during times of hormonal transition:
1. One of our favorite ways to address changes in vaginal health is through non-hormonal interventions, such as increasing phytoestrogens.
- Phytoestrogens like flax and soy function to offset declining levels of estrogen. Flax and soy contain plant constituents that gently act like estrogen in the body.
- They bind to estrogen receptors and can reduce symptoms of low estrogen.
- To learn more about why phytoestrogens are useful, check out our article called Using Seeds to Balance Your Hormones
2. Non-hormonal vaginal moisturizers can be very beneficial if you are dealing with a lack of moisture down there. These over-the-counter moisturizers are designed specifically for the vagina and contain ingredients that will replenish the tissue and hopefully, increase your comfort.
These vaginal moisturizers are different from personal lubricant used during intercourse, however, personal lubricant can be used in a pinch! Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid (may be listed as sodium hyaluronate), aloe vera, and vitamin E. Be sure to avoid fragrances and perfumes as they can cause further irritation and dryness.
A few over-the counter brands that are available in Canada include:
3. In some cases, hormonal intervention should be considered. Vaginally, the most common intervention is an estriol containing cream that is inserted into the vagina. Estriol or E3 is the safest type of bioidentical estrogen available and functions to regenerate the tissues in the vagina.
This regeneration can lead to less dryness, increased strength of the tissue and less overall discomfort. These hormone-based creams contain small amounts of estrogen and must be prescribed by your doctor. Since they are applied locally, they do not have a systemic effect on the body and hence are still considered very safe. Speak to our team to assess if bioidentical hormonal intervention is the right solution for you!
4. Laser treatments are another recent addition to the arsenal against vaginal changes during perimenopause. Lasers are non-invasive forms of treatment which work my first break down the vaginal tissue, allowing it to regenerate in a more hearty and stable form. 3 treatments are performed by licensed health professionals over a period of 3 months, with the most changes experienced following the final treatment (1).
Some women may experience increased discomfort immediately following treatments, however, this discomfort seems to be manageable and dissipates quickly (2). As with hormonal interventions, not all patients will be a candidate for laser treatment. It is important to discuss with your doctor the benefits and risks associated with all treatment options.
Hormone changes and times of transition in your life don’t have to leave you feeling like a different person. There is no need to suffer or worry if you are the only one. Just because others aren’t talking about it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening!
Our team of Naturopathic Doctors wants to help you feel and look your best! We urge you to take control of your symptoms and set the stage for a positive experience leading into perimenopause and menopause!
To learn more about your hormone testing and treatment options, book your complimentary Hormone Assessment today and let us help you get on the road to happy, healthy hormones!