I stopped taking estrogen about five years ago, and the biggest change I’ve noticed since then is that my vagina is undoubtedly drier. Not desert or sandpaper dry, but dry enough to take away the pleasure of sex, even masturbation. Lubricants help, but they’re temporary fixes. (It’s kind of refreshing to be able to be so straightforward about so many things at this stage in my life!)
When the gynecologist examined me a couple of months ago, I didn’t think to bring up the subject and she didn’t say anything, either. So I made an appointment with an endocrinologist I’ve seen for my bones and risk for diabetes, and she also happens to have a special interest in menopause. She had never brought up the issue of vaginal dryness, either, at my previous visits.
On this visit, the doctor first asked me a bunch of questions: Do I have hot flashes? Frequent urinary tract infections? Have I used lubricants? Is sex painful? When did I go off hormone therapy? Do I sleep ok? She also checked the meds and supplements I take, how much exercise I do, and the results of my blood chemistry, which I had checked a couple of months ago.
Then, I started asking the questions.
Geri: Why didn’t you or my gynecologist [in the same medical center] ever bring up vaginal dryness or other painful symptoms after menopause?
Dr. C: It should be talked about and elevated to an important issue in postmenopausal women. But when you have 15 minutes with a patient, and she has other issues, it is sometimes difficult to address it unless it is very pressing with her and she brings it up, or I’m treating her specifically for menopausal symptoms.