Valentine’s Day is the time of year when we’re given full permission to think about love and sex. But for many women in their 50s and beyond, those thoughts may be more focused on a common physical condition that can make sex painful due to menopause.
Approximately 32 million women in the US suffer from a postmenopausal symptom that can result in painful sex, research shows. And according to Dr. Donnica L. Moore, MD, a renowned women’s health expert and the Founder of Sapphire Women’s Health Group LLC, this reality is something that all too often doesn’t get talked about.
“What staggers me, both as a physician and as a woman in that demographic, is that women are more comfortable talking to their friends regarding sex than they are talking to their partners or doctors about sex,” Moore says.
When estrogen levels drop during menopause, the vaginal walls become thinner and dryer—a process known as vulvar and vaginal atrophy (VVA). VVA can lead to a slew of uncomfortable side effects in women, including painful intercourse, or dyspareunia.
According to Moore, VVA is extremely common, affecting more than half of all menopausal women. But in spite of the ubiquity of this condition, many women hesitate to address menopause-related vaginal changes with their partner or doctor—either because they’re embarrassed to acknowledge it, or because they accept it as an inevitable consequence of aging.
“Many women have a very complacent attitude about it. They think, ‘Oh, I’m old, this is normal,’” Dr. Moore says.
The facts speak to their silence: research shows that despite dyspareunia being so prevalent in postmenopausal women, only about 22 percent of females 50 and older have discussed sexual issues with their doctor.
Luckily, there’s no need to suffer in silence; painful sex due to menopause is a treatable medical condition. While lubricants can make sex more comfortable in the short-term, it won’t address the underlying issue, which is why Moore recommends for women to speak with their physician if they are experiencing painful sex. There are a number of prescription treatment options available to help make sex more comfortable in the long-term. One of them, Osphena® (ospemifene) is an oral, non-estrogen pill that helps repair and rebuild specific vaginal tissue including superficial cells, parabasal cells, and pH.
Bottom line? Sex after menopause should not be painful. If it is, talk to your doctor about treatment options. And don’t be afraid to speak up – these are things that should be addressed sooner rather than later, says Dr. Moore.
If left untreated, the consequences of dyspareunia can be devastating, both to a woman’s self-confidence and to her intimate relationships. “Many women think something is wrong them,” Dr. Moore says. “But that’s not the case. This isn’t something you should have to live with.”
For more information about Osphena Full Prescribing Information and Patient Information, including a boxed warning and to download a savings card, go to www.painfulsexaftermenopause.com