Q: I am 40 and having my normal menstrual cycle every month but for the past few months I’ve been experiencing a dry vagina and pain in the walls and on minora after and before having sex, I’m very worried; please help. There is itching all the time around that area.
A: I recommend seeing a gynecologist for an examination. According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), although the average age of menopause is around 51, common ages for menopause can range from 40 to 58, with some even younger or older than that range.
Maybe It’s Hormones …
It may be that your estrogen levels are declining, which can lead to vaginal dryness and discomfort. Some women, together with their healthcare providers, decide to use an estrogen-based vaginal moisturizer to provide some relief. Itching and vaginal dryness are common signs of lower levels of estrogen. There are also non-hormonal vaginal moisturizers available at drug stores, on the Internet, or in grocery stores that may help to improve the feel of sex. Vaginal moisturizers are often used a few evenings per week, with the moisturizer inserted into the vagina before bed so that it has time to moisten the vaginal walls. This makes them different than lubricants, which are usually used only at the time of sexual activity. You can learn more about vaginal moisturizers from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Maybe It’s Lichen?
Much less often, some women experience genital skin conditions that can contribute to discomfort and itching – for example, a condition called lichen sclerosus can cause similar symptoms, including painful sex and frequent itching. Because various kinds of health conditions can cause these common symptoms, we recommend checking in with a doctor or nurse who can help you with your own personal health questions.
Additionally, you can learn more about vaginal health, painful sex, hormonal changes, and vaginal dryness in books like “The V Book: A Doctor’s Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health” or “What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend”.