Menopausal Relations: Why Sex May Hurt

With age, periods lose their regular nature and eventually stop. This sign is associated with a series of significant changes in the female body. While symptoms may vary, menopausal women typically report mood fluctuations, hot flashes, sleeping disorders and sometimes weight gain. All these are normal. Additionally, up to a half of such women also suffer from pain during an intercourse. This makes them avoid sex, which may have a negative effect on their relations. Let’s try to get a deeper insight into the problem.

Why Sex May Cause Pain

The primary reason why sex during the menopausal period may hurt is depleted estrogen levels. This hormone, along with other functions, is responsible for producing natural lubrication and new cells to replenish your vagina’s lining. The problem is that a female body, once in menopause, gradually reduces the estrogen production. As a result, the vagina’s lining becomes thinner with time and loses much of its elasticity. In medicine, this phenomenon is known as “vulvovaginal atrophy”.

When the lubricating layer is too thin, penetration may cause pain, which is known as ”dyspareunia”. The degree of the pain varies from mild to burning and sharp. In more severe cases, the thinned lining of the vagina can be damaged by penis and bleed.

A woman experiencing pain during sex typically gets worried, which only further impedes the release of lubrication. If you don’t interrupt this vicious circle, sex will eventually become so painful that giving it up will seem to be the best choice, source:

On the other hand, having sex on a regular basis promotes keeping vaginal tissues healthy and functional. The natural lubrication prevents them from getting thinner and losing elasticity. The unpleasant feeling can go away once the menopause is completed. Sometimes, however, the pain holds for a longer time.

Painful Sex Treatment Approaches

Given the problem is quite common, there are many solutions out there proposed to relieve the condition and help you go on enjoying sex during menopause. While knowing available options is always helpful, it is recommended to consult your doctor to make the right choice.

Lubricants and Moisturizers

A wide range of artificial lubricants is available on the market. Coming in a liquid or gel form, they provide an effective and affordable solution to treat mild vagina dryness. Just apply the substance to the penis or directly to the vagina before penetration to have more pleasing coitus due to significantly reduced friction.

Notice that oil-based lubricants can damage condoms if you use the latter, so water-based remedies should be selected in this case.

Moisturizers work in a similar way with the only difference that they are absorbed by the skin, thus securing a more durable effect (up to 3-4 days).

Low-Dose Vaginal Estrogen

Sometimes, moisturizes fail to solve the problem. In such a situation, your doctor may recommend low-dose vaginal estrogen. As mentioned above, this hormone is beneficial to the vagina’s tissues making them thicker and suppler. This method involves putting an estrogen tablet, cream or flexible ring into a vagina directly. One of the major advantages is avoiding some side effects characteristic to taking pills. This kind of cream should be applied 2-3 times per week. Vaginal tablets require the same use frequency. If you choose to insert the vaginal ring, it can remain inside for up to 2-3 months.

Oral Estrogen

Taking estrogen orally is probably the easiest mode of use. Along with resolving the discussed problem, such remedies are also designed to relieve such menopausal signs as hot flashes. As mentioned above, swallowing the pills can cause certain side effect, which include:

  • nausea;
  • headache;
  • weight gain;
  • breast tenderness;
  • bloating.

It is also known that taking estrogen for a long time increases risks of getting breast cancer and uterine cancer. So this method is not recommended to people who fall into a group of risk.

Other Causes of the Pain

The discussed lining thinning is not the only reason why sex during menopause can hurt. Such conditions as vestibulodynia, vulvodynia, vaginismus and cystitis may produce the same effect. They are treated with different remedies including local anesthetics, physical therapy and topical medications. To be on the safe side, contact your gynecologist prior to decide on the treatment approach.

Due to menopause specifics, the vagina’s lubricating lining becomes thinner and less flexible. This is the major cause of pain women may feel when having sex during this life stage. If this is your case, start with simple and easy-to-use methods like moisturizers, lubricants and estrogen remedies. If the problem persists, visit your doctor for an in-depth investigation of possible causes.