A woman’s vaginal health is an important part of her overall health. When issues arise, they can affect her daily life and even her self-confidence.
The vagina is an elastic, muscular canal with a soft, flexible lining that provides sensation and lubrication for everything from intercourse to childbirth. Over time, bodily changes can alter the elasticity, leaving women with some symptoms that can affect her physical and mental health. The most common vaginal health conditions affecting aging women in their everyday lives include:
1) Urinary incontinence
Common during pregnancy, after childbirth, and during and after menopause, urinary incontinence, or the loss of bladder control, is twice as common in women as in men, and is more common in older women than younger. It is often attributed to changing hormone levels, weakened vaginal muscles, and aging.
2) Pain during intercourse
Also known as dyspareunia, pain during intercourse is a common issue affecting aging women. Estrogen levels drop throughout the menopausal transition, causing many to experience changes in sexual function.
3) Vaginal dryness
Often a culprit of pain during intercourse, vaginal atrophy, more commonly known as dryness, results from declining estrogen levels during menopause, breastfeeding, and while using birth control pills. Lower levels of estrogen can lead to dryness and irritation that may affect a woman’s libido.
4) Vaginal prolapse
Vaginal prolapse is a condition in which structures such as the uterus, bladder, vagina, and more can fall out of their normal positions due to weakened pelvic muscles. Prolonged labor and delivery can stretch and weaken pelvic floor muscles, especially if women have had numerous children. Advanced age, menopause, and obesity are other known causes. Unfortunately, weakened pelvic muscles can lead to dyspareunia, incontinence, urinary tract infections, and vaginal pain while standing.
It is extremely common for women to experience one or all of these symptoms as they age, but there’s no need to suffer. Treatments ranging from kegel exercises that strengthen your muscles to painless laser therapy that can repair the elasticity of the vaginal walls are available. Women should never feel nervous or embarrassed about broaching the subject with their physician.