Menopause can bring about many physical and emotional changes in women. Apart from the end of monthly menstruation, the changes can affect almost every aspect of our lives, including our libido and our moods. One common side effect many women struggle with is painful intercourse, commonly known as dyspareunia, as a result of changes during and after menopause.
During menopause, a woman’s ovaries cease producing the estrogen and progesterone hormones. The decline of estrogen hormones can cause pain during intercourse, according to the North American Menopause Society. Estrogen produces a natural lubricant during intercourse, and it additionally helps in producing new cells in the vagina. The decline results in the vagina being dry and a less elastic vagina, resulting in uncomfortable and painful sex. After sex, some women have reported feeling sore or a burning sensation in their vulva or vagina after intercourse.
Depending on where you feel this pain, the causes could vary. Menopause is typically the cause for older women, but consult your doctor if you feel this type of pain in any of these regions.
Outer, Entry Pain:
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginismus (the body’s natural response to the fear of any form of vaginal penetration)
- Infection or irritation
- Injury or trauma
- Vaginal abnormality
Deep, Inner Pain (pain around the pelvis area)
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Endometriosis (cells inside the uterus grow on the outside of it)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Pelvic floor dysfunction
- Fibroids (noncancerous uterine growths that can appear throughout a woman’s reproductive years)
Knowing where the pain is coming from can greatly help your doctor give you suitable treatment for the pain. If left untreated, the pain can trickle into other areas of your life, and could possibly damage your self image, or even your romantic relationships.
Your doctor may recommend estrogen therapy, which is a low-dose, short-term therapy that can be given orally, topically, vaginally, or via injection. A topical estrogen treatment will aid in producing more lubrication and it helps improve elasticity.
One method of nonmedicinal prevention can be adding a water-based lubricant during sex to ease pain, a moisturizer specifically for the vagina. Doctors have also recommended self masturbation, as it can not only decrease any possibility of pain, but can increase individual pleasure. Masturbation relieves stress and increases blood flow. It aids in the preparation of the vagina and the woman for penetration, and enhanced blood flow can lead to greater natural lubrication.
Changing positions may not only help with arousal, but may decrease any feelings of discomfort. Certain positions may help when avoiding trouble areas, and it can help your partner understand your body better.
Although painful sex can be discouraging, speaking with a medical professional can help alleviate any pain and further discomfort. It is also important to know that painful sex during and after menopause isn’t your fault and can be treated.