Nurse Barb’s Daily Dose

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: June 18, 2014

Why does my Vagina feel like the Sahara?

When you buy your ticket on the hormonal roller coaster, affectionately known as menopause, I have some bad news: Sorry, you probably won’t be making a stop at Splash Mountain. Nope, menopause brings lots of unexpected twists and turns and one big secret that very few of your friends are talking about.

Your Va Jay Jay will be a lot dryer. Ok, ok, I know, I’m supposed to use correct terminology. In menopause, as estrogen levels decrease, one of the first casualties is the vagina. It will become drier, lubricate less and be less able to expand, stretch and, well, have fun.

Can You Say Sahara?

Who knew? What many of my patients are surprised by is how dry their skin is in menopause, especially their vaginas and the labia that surround the vaginal opening. The once healthy, pink, soft and flexible, stretchy accordion-like folds of the vagina begin to get smaller and thin out, the result of decreasing estrogen levels. And, what’s worse, now that you don’t have to worry about pregnancy, all of a sudden, your ability to lubricate recedes like a middle-aged man’s hairline.

Infections are More Common 

Sorry to say, that when the vagina is dry, it means that the pH will also be off balance, slightly more alkaline and less acidic. This allows less of the good healthy, protective bacteria (lactobacillus) to grow and more of the bad bacteria that cause vaginal and bladder infections to flourish.

These conditions are a set up for more vaginal infections, odor, itching and burning. And, yes, if you’re wondering, the changes in the vagina can also spark more bladder infections, as opportunistic bad bacteria in the vagina migrate toward the vagina’s nearest neighbors the urethra and bladder. This can be a set up for sudden infections and a lot of discomfort. It’s puzzling for many women, since they may not have had an infection in years.

What to Do?

Do not wait!  Do not make the mistake of thinking that this will get better on it’s own. It doesn’t.  It just gets worse.
If you have any symptoms of a bladder or vaginal infection, such as burning and pain with urination, vaginal itching, burning or a new odorous discharge, do see your health care provider. Trust me, this is not just something to put up with.

Don’t walk, run to your health care provider to discuss preventive treatment options. There are lots of remedies available that range from natural and over the counter options to prescription medications.

Nurse Barb Dehn is a Women’s Health NP with over 25 years caring for women of all ages. She is certified by the North American Menopause Society, lectures at Stanford University and has a new book out, The Hot Guide to a Cool Sexy Menopause.