How to Take Care of Your Vaginal Health During Menopause
Vaginal health in menopause is key for any woman who remains sexually active. It is vital that every woman feels secure and confident in her own body. Symptoms like low sex drive, vaginal dryness and infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV) are hard and appear often. But studies on probiotics and vaginal health show some good evidence for supporting you in menopause
Estrogen protects and stimulates vaginal secretions, this is why, before menopause, the surface of your vagina is moist and plump. Yet, you may notice vaginal dryness at the age of menopause. Don’t be afraid when this happens. This is just an usual symptom, and it occurs because the walls of the vagina are now thin, dry, and less elastic than before. Although, dryness, irritation, and pain during sex affect a woman’s body image, self-esteem, and quality of life, there are still solutions to make your life better.
In short, even though it is most common when you are older, vaginal dryness occurs because of low estrogen levels and it could happen to a woman at any age. It may come as a surprise, but about a half of all women at this age have the symptom. However, they usually don’t ask their doctor for health. It is hard to open up about such personal details, even when you are talking to your ob-gyn.
Itching, burning, or pain in vaginal area can happen to women who have vaginal dryness. On top of that, they can have mood swings, hot flashes, skin problems, and weight gain issues. A woman’s sexual function can be hurt even more as the vagina narrows in menopause. Also, the risk of having a vaginal or urinary tract infection increases.
Healing Vaginal Dryness
Today, you have many options to treat vaginal dryness, apart from probiotics for vaginal health. Usually, your doctor may suggest topical estrogen instead of HRT. It makes you absorb much less estrogen than in HRT, which means it has less risks and side effects. Among topical therapies are vaginal rings, creams, and tablets.
It is good to know that therapies for vaginal dryness do bring relief. But, if you are not ready to start a therapy or speak about it with your doctor, you can also use lubricants during sex to reduce pain. Also, you can apply them every day or a few times a week to moisten the walls of the vagina.
For women who get vaginal infections more often because of dryness, healing the symptom could help prevent them in the first place. Apart from using topical remedies, you can also make small changes in your lifestyle. Often, these have a very positive effect on the health of your vagina.
Check Your Body Products
Make sure to check what you buy. You do not want to have a shower gel with harsh chemicals. Vaginal area cleans itself, so you do not need to douche. If you really want to, buy a neutral intimate gel instead of your regular body wash.
Adjust Your Diet
Keep in mind that if you are not eating healthy, your whole body falls out of balance. That is why if you adjust your diet you may see it affect vaginal health as well. Choose whole foods full of vitamins and minerals like veggies and fruits. Also try to stay away from fatty and sugary foods.
Wear Cotton for Vaginal Health
Your underwear should not irritate your skin. As a result, synthetic fabrics are not an option. Choose cotton wear which allows your skin to breath and does not restrict your body.
Have More Sex
If you have pain during sex, this may sound like a wrong tip. Yet, having more sex is actually a good idea, because arousal helps to moisten the walls of your vagina and relieve dryness. Use lubricants during sex to reduce the pain but do not avoid it – it is good for you.
Taking Probiotics for Vaginal Health Support
Infections like BV are common in women in menopause because their gut flora is out of balance. Before, estrogen helped healthy gut bacteria support your body and also lowered the pH level inside the vagina. But, with the estrogen decline, the amount of healthy Lactobacilli also lowers. That is why fixing the gut flora balance is the key to treating and preventing vaginal infections and dryness.
Studies on probiotics and vaginal health has shown a decline in vaginal dryness symptom as a result of more variety in good bacteria (1). The number of Lactobacillus species in the vagina lowers with age. In a healthy vagina, Lactobacilli protect the body from viruses, but in menopause the flora vulnerable to infections. Using probiotics can restore the flora and protect it from bacteria and microbes.
Vaginal dryness was shown to appear more in women with less bacterial diversity (2). On top of that, the diversity of bacteria in a woman’s body seems to decline with age, just like the amount of good bacteria. Based on this, if you take steps to bring more good bacteria into your body, these symptoms would reduce.
A study about treating bacterial infections with probiotics (3) also showed positive effects. They improve vaginal flora and help prevent infections in women. Usually, doctors prescribe antibiotics for these infections, but those come with a number of side effects. Probiotics can be used as a single therapy for treating vaginal dryness and stopping infections. They also carry no side effects.
Take Care of Your Vaginal Health
The key to vaginal health in menopause is in using both hormonal and non-hormonal treatments. When you take probiotics, your vaginal flora receives the good bacteria it needs to begin healing. It is good to choose a probiotic that fits the needs of your body. Add to that changes in your diet and lifestyle, and you have a healthy balance going on for you.
(1) R Hummelen et al. “Vaginal microbiome and epithelial gene array in post-menopausal women with moderate to severe dryness.”
(2) Rebecca Brotman et al. “Association between the vaginal microbiota, menopause status and signs of vulvovaginal atrophy.”
(3) Jun-Mo Kim and Yoo Jin Park. “Probiotics in the Prevention and Treatment of Postmenopausal Vaginal Infections: Review Article.”