NAMS’s (The North American Menopause Society) position paper on VVA (vulvovaginal atrophy) states, “Symptoms...such as lack of lubrication and pain with intercourse, affect 20% to 45% of midlife and older women but only a minority seek help or are offered help by their providers.”
Vaginal dryness is more than a minor inconvenience for many of the women with the condition.
The VIVA (Vaginal Health: Insights, Views & Attitudes) online survey asked women how the vaginal discomfort associated with vaginal dryness affected them. The results were striking:
- 80% considered it to affect their lives negatively
- 75% reported negative consequences on their sex life
- 68% reported that it makes them feel less sexual
- 36% reported that it makes them feel old
- 33% reported negative consequences on marriage/relationship
- 26% reported a negative effect on self-esteem
- 25% reported that it lowers Quality Of Life (QOL)
Despite the toll it takes, vaginal health is commonly not addressed by healthcare providers during perimenopause and menopause. In the largest survey of US women, REVIVE (Real Women’s Views of Treatment Options for Menopausal Vaginal Changes), only 7% of the 3047 women in the study reported that their healthcare provider asked them questions about VVA.
The authors of the VIVA Survey concluded, “Vaginal atrophy negatively impacts women's lives, but women lack knowledge of the subject and are hesitant to consult healthcare professionals, who should proactively initiate discussions regarding appropriate treatment options.”
Vaginal dryness is associated with a number of significant symptoms that may be missed unless the question is asked. The REVIVE study reports, “The most common VVA symptoms were dryness (55% of participants), dyspareunia—pain with sex (44%), and irritation (37%). VVA symptoms affected the enjoyment of sex in 59% of participants.” Also, sleep was disturbed in 24% and enjoyment of life diminished in 23%.
Few women knew that their symptoms were associated with menopause and hormone changes. Yet, the personal consequences of unaddressed vaginal dryness are significant. In the REVIVE study,
- 85% of partnered women had some loss of intimacy
- 59% indicated symptoms affected their enjoyment of sex
- 47% of women with partners said their symptoms interfered with their relationship
Vaginal dryness and the other vaginal changes associated with menopause are not minor inconveniences for many women. They can be life-altering. Fortunately, there are effective treatments available.