It is estimated up to 80% of women entering menopause are affected by vaginal dryness and nearly half will continue to experience vaginal dryness post menopause. Many women will feel let down by their body causing a significant impact on intimate relationships.
The role of oestrogen
Fahs, the author of this study examined a very personal issue that affects as many as 80% of young menopause women – that of personal lubrication during intimate encounters.
Premature menopause (PM) has previously been defined as menopause before the age of 40, which impacts 1 in 100 women. PM can be described as oestrogen deficiency. The symptoms of oestrogen deficiency that impact personal lubrication include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Decreased lubrication
- Pain during sex
- Decreased libido
- Sexual dissatisfaction
An important role of oestrogen in the body is to encourage the mucous membranes within the vagina to produce a fluid or lubricant. The dryness occurs as a result of oestrogen levels falling during menopause. The vaginal tissues then produce less lubricant which can cause the vagina to become dry.
So the subject of natural lubrication during sexual stimulation becomes an important theme for those women who are experiencing PM.
The reported impact of PM includes quality of life issues. Those issues include emotional and psychological distress and possible disruption to social and intimate relationships.
Female attitude towards natural ‘wetness’
Fahs’ study investigated women’s personal feelings surrounding sexual arousal, and specifically of natural lubrication or ‘wetness’ as a sign of sexual arousal. The author believes that it is important to examine women’s attitudes toward their body to gain a greater, less medical based understanding of female arousal. This is also seen as an important subject to those women who have experienced PM – the issue of medical vs natural interventions is often discussed in research journals involving PM.
The author recruited and interviewed 20 women with an average age of 35 years, to answer 32 open ended questions relating to the focus of the study, namely natural vaginal lubrication.
What did the study reveal?
After examining each transcribed interview, the author identified 4 themes within her study. Those themes were:
1. Wetness as pleasure, joy and connection
- majority of women in this study identified feeling wet as a pleasurable experience
- some felt wetness is a signalled a connection to her partner and indicated positive relationship dynamics
- signals a way to feel pleasure and comfort in their own bodies
2. Wetness as physical, biological phenomenon
- 4 women described wetness as a physical phenomenon separate from feelings
3. Anxiety about insufficient wetness
- about half the women indicated anxiety about lack of wetness, both related to their own body and also to partner dynamics
4. Excessive or ‘too much’ wetness
- too much is also sometimes a source of anxiety
How does this study help women with PM?
The most relevant finding as it relates to PM is the anxiety expressed about insufficient wetness. Recognising that lubrication or lack of, is a source of great anxiety is an important factor for doctors who treat PM women. Discussing both medical and alternative interventions for the issue of insufficient lubrication is important. These treatments and suggestions can include:
- Vaginal Moisturisers – non hormonal products available over the counter to be used regularly regardless of sexual activity
- Vaginal Lubricants – used to minimise dryness and pain during sexual activity
- Pelvic muscle control exercises help with relaxation which leads to decreased discomfort and increased blood flow
- Sexual activity with greater time spent on foreplay and alternative sexual positions
♥Inability to produce sufficient lubrication can lead to negative self image
♥It’s important to communication with sexual partner what you are going through
♥Develop greater self-awareness around your body
♥Exam your feelings and attitude surrounding body arousal before turning to medical interventions
♥Look at natural treatments first such as foreplay, , sex toys, lubricants and sex positions
♥If natural interventions do not work then always go and speak to your doctor
Fahs, B. Slippery desire: Women’s qualitative accounts of their vaginal lubrication and wetness
International Society for Sexual Medicine. 2010, Vol. 8:549-559