Pain during intercourse is unfortunately a common symptom for many women, especially women over 50. However, lots of women in the 30s and 40s experience it, too.
If painful intercourse is an issue for you, it could be due to peri/menopause. Pain during intercourse is just one of what’s known as Genital Symptoms of Menopause (GSM), which also include vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and increased urinary tract infections.
Maybe you feel like you’re too young to be going through menopause. Remember that perimenopause – the period of time leading up to menopause, the cessation of menstruation – can last several years, so it’s entirely possible to experience symptoms of perimenopause in your early 40s, late 30s, or even earlier.
Here’s what’s going on down there that causes pain during intercourse, and what you can do about it.
When Estrogen Turns the Grape into a Raisin
Think about the difference between a raisin and a grape. They’re the same thing, it’s just that when the grape loses significant amounts of moisture, it turns into a raisin.
A similar thing happens to us women during peri/menopause. That’s because estrogen is the hormone that keeps everything “juicy,” and when estrogen levels decline, that juiciness disappears. Decreasing levels of estrogen also lead to thinning, drying, and inflammation of the vaginal wall and changes to the exterior labia.
Altogether, these changes to the vagina can cause painful intercourse. Pain during intercourse can exacerbate another common GSM, decrease in libido. If sex hurts, you’ll naturally want it less, which only decreases libido further.
Finding Relief from Painful Intercourse
One simple solution that works for many women is the use of a lubricant to provide external moisture and lessen the pain during intercourse. Coconut oil is a popular option, but there are many available, both natural and synthetic. Try some and find what works for you.
Another solution is hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which replaces the estrogen and progesterone in the body and reverses many of the common symptoms of menopause. For more targeted results, hormone-containing vaginal suppositories or creams combat dryness to help painful intercourse without the system-wide effects of HRT. Talk to your doctor and find out if hormone therapy of any kind is a good fit for you, particularly if you have a history of certain cancers.
Vaginal rejuvenation therapy is yet another option. Vaginal rejuvenation is an out-patient procedure that uses either CO2 laser, radiofrequency, or stem cell therapy/Platelet-Rich Plasma to increase collagen in the vagina. The result: improved sensitivity, increase in moisture, and decrease in pain during intercourse. You can read more about vaginal rejuvenation on my blog right here.
Taking Charge of Your Pleasure
Don’t feel hopeless if you’re facing GSM like pain during intercourse. There are several options to help make intercourse pleasurable, rather than painful, again. The vagina can and should remain functional through perimenopause and into the menopausal years, and women don’t have to give up pleasure just because they reach a certain age.
If you’re in the Tucson area, I invite you to come see me at my practice, Tula Wellness. Schedule a consultation right here. I look forward to speaking with you!