Menopause & Treating Vaginal Atrophy with Dilators
What is Menopause?
Menopause is a marking of time that signifies the end of menstruation and it is diagnosed after 12 months without a menstrual period. For years prior, symptoms may occur during the transitional phase, or peri menopause, including: irregular cycles, mood changes, weight gain, vaginal dryness, thinning skin and tissue, and hot flashes due to the hormonal shifts that take place.
As women age their ovaries begin making less estrogen and progesterone, which are responsible for regulating menstruation and fertility. Symptoms can occur in women of any age with hormone decline, after radiation or chemotherapy, after the removal ovaries, due to ovarian insufficiency, and more, but the natural menopause transition typically occurs between ages 45-55.
One particularly frustrating condition that may occur related to the decline of estrogen is vaginal atrophy.
What is Vaginal Atrophy?
Vaginal atrophy is the thinning and drying of the lining of the vagina that occurs with the loss of estrogen in menopause. This condition is now part of genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM), which includes the effects on the vagina as well as urinary symptoms that accompany low estrogen.
GSM and vaginal atrophy may be present as vaginal itching, burning, pain with sex, frequent urinary, urinary tract infections, spotting, and decreased libido.
What If You Suspect Vaginal Atrophy?
If you are experiencing symptoms of vaginal atrophy you are not alone and there are several treatment options available.
First and foremost, always consult with your physician about what you are experiencing so that they can help you make the right diagnosis or refer you to a pelvic specialist that can. It is important to discuss your symptoms with the appropriate healthcare professional so that your treatment can be individualized and offer the most effective results.
Treating Vaginal Atrophy
Your healthcare provider will work with you to offer the best treatment plan for you based on your symptoms and severity. Some options include estrogen therapy to address the loss of estrogen directly and others may help lessen symptoms such as pelvic physical therapy, vaginal moisturizers, vaginal lubricants, lifestyle changes including following a healthy hormone balancing diet, and the use of dilators.
Using Dilators in Menopause
Dilators like the VWELL Silicone Dilator Set (also on Amazon) are used to increase vaginal tissue mobility and decrease pain with intercourse. Dilator use can improve tissue tolerance and muscle relaxation during penetration, especially when paired with lubrication and hormone treatment.
This dilator set also provides ComfortSense Engineering, having a tapered length-of-the-body body and smooth medical silicone finish to reduce insertion pressure by up to 70%.
Dilator therapy typically takes 10-15 minutes per session and can be done in the comfort of your home. Begin by applying a water based lubricant to the smaller dilator that can be comfortably and snuggly inserted vaginally without pain. Leave the dilator inserted and apply gentle movement and pressure as instructed by your healthcare provider for 5-10 minutes, adding more lubrication as needed.
The key to successful dilator training is consistency and appropriate use. When using dilators to improve intercourse it is important to use regularly if not having sex to maintain progress. Learn more about how to use the VWELL dilators in our previous article on "How to Use Vaginal Dilators? 10 Easy Steps from a Pelvic Trainer"
Post written by Dr. Cassandra Sharp PT, DPT
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