Menopause and painful sex: What you need to know


(BPT) - This year, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of National Senior Health & Fitness Day. The common goal for this observance is simple: to help keep Americans healthy and fit at any age. This national awareness day is the perfect opportunity for individuals to make or renew resolutions around aging and health and to revitalize their commitment to lead healthier lives — including their sex lives.

Intimacy has been connected with more and better-quality sleep, less stress and happier relationships in general, according to the journal “Health” — although committing to maintaining a healthy sex life may prove to be easier said than done. Unfortunately, for menopausal and postmenopausal women, pain during sex is common. A recent HealthyWomen survey of menopausal women about painful sex, sponsored by Duchesnay USA, found that 62 percent of respondents reported experiencing vaginal pain during or after sexual intercourse. Moreover, while many of the respondents reported still being sexually active (73 percent), 83 percent of respondents reported experiencing pain in half or more instances of sexual activity, with 73 percent rating the pain moderate to severe.

According to the “Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved Today,” many women are empowered to navigate their own medical care and make health care decisions for their families. Yet, when it comes to painful sex due to menopause, it seems that women are not speaking up about this common symptom to their health care providers. According to the HealthyWomen survey, 60 percent of respondents reported not discussing their painful sex with their health care providers. Furthermore, 69 percent were unaware that the painful sex they were experiencing is treatable.

National Senior Health & Fitness Day is an opportunity to highlight the communication barriers surrounding painful sex due to menopause and the treatment options available, with the long-term goal of improving women’s sexual — and overall — health.

Are you suffering needlessly?

Significant strides in clinical research and disease treatment have led to medical advances that may benefit menopausal women experiencing pain during intercourse. While painful sex can be treated with lubricants or moisturizers, these only provide temporary relief and do not address the underlying condition causing the pain. There are prescription options available to treat moderate to severe painful sex, including a once-daily, hormone-free oral pill, which some women may prefer over vaginally applied treatments.

Empower yourself

Being your own health advocate requires overcoming the communication barrier surrounding pain you are experiencing during sex. Your health care provider can provide insight into the risks and benefits of your options, but only if you start the conversation.

Here are some things you can discuss with your health care provider at your next appointment:

* When was your last menstrual period?

* How often do you have pain during or after sex?

* How intense is your pain during or after sex? Moderate? Severe?

* How are you coping with pain during or after sex?

* Is an oral treatment right for you?

To learn more: healthywomen.org/painfulsex.