How One Woman Stood Up To Her Uncomfortable Postmenopausal Vaginal Symptoms

This post is sponsored by Pfizer, the makers of ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) 2mg. For more information on ESTRING, please see Full Prescribing Information, including BOXED WARNING and Patient Information. Scroll down or click here for Important Safety Information.

Patricia Hensley, a former national-class distance runner, always lived a healthy, active lifestyle. A dental hygienist for decades, this 63-year-old lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, who is nine years younger.

“We had a good sex life until I had problems,” related this candid woman, whose experience after menopause made sex painful.

When Patricia finally decided she had enough suffering as a result of her postmenopausal vaginal symptoms she decided to speak with her doctor. Together they decide to try Estring, a treatment option that helps alleviate moderate to severe symptoms of postmenopausal vaginal atrophy. Her tale is a good lesson for any woman who needs help for postmenopause symptoms that just won’t quit. Geri Brin, founder of FabOverFifty.com, chatted with Patricia to see how she turned things around after menopause.

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When did you experience menopause?
I was perimenopausal starting at age 47 and then around age 51 I stopped getting my period for a full 12 months and became postmenopausal.

When did you begin experiencing postmenopausal symptoms, and what were they?
My vaginal symptoms were severe and I decided I needed to do something about it – so I spoke with my doctor on the best way for me to help find relief. That’s when my doctor prescribed Estring* for the first time.

*Editor’s note: Estring is a soft, flexible ring inserted into the vagina for 90 days of treatment.1 Estring will continue to release a low, continuous dose for the full 90 days that the ring remains in place. 1 The ring may help to relieve the symptoms of postmenopausal vaginal atrophy. 1 This may include painful sex or vaginal dryness. 1

What were the symptoms?
My vagina was very dry. Intercourse was becoming painful.

You mentioned sex was painful. Can you share more details about that?
I didn’t try anything to alleviate the pain. Intercourse wasn’t working out so well.

Did you talk to your husband about this and what did he say?
Absolutely. He was so understanding. He felt sorry for me. Actually, he was almost afraid to initiate sex because he didn’t want to hurt me. It was so painful; it was unbelievable.

So, when did you decide to do something about your symptoms?
At first, I just thought, ‘I’m getting older and this is what it’s supposed to be like. I didn’t talk to my friends about it. So I saw a new doctor who had recommended that I start on Estring.

Many women experience what you experienced and say nothing. It’s great that you decided otherwise. Are you still on Estring?
Yes, I am still on Estring. There was a brief period of time when I was off Estring and tried a handful of other products including creams, tablets and pills. Ultimately after lots of trial and error, I decided that Estring* was the right choice for me as I only need to replace it every 90 days and not worry about forgetting to apply a cream or take a pill.

*Please note: Before starting Estring it is important to talk to your doctor about the benefits and risk of using Estring. 1 Estrogens such as Estring should be used only as long as needed. 1 You and your healthcare professional should talk regularly every 3 to 6 months about whether you still need treatment with Estring. 1

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How long does the ring stay in?
For up to three months, and then you replace it.*

Please note: Estring should be removed after 90 days of continued use. 1 If continuation of therapy is indicated, the flexible ring should be replaced. 1 You and your healthcare provider should talk regularly about whether you still need treatment with Estring to control these symptoms. 1

Do you take it out or does the doctor?
I take it out. I just put a reminder on my calendar when I need to replace it. I was a bit concerned that my husband would feel the ring during intercourse, but my doctor suggested neither my husband nor I should feel it during intercourse.

What about your postmenopausal vaginal atrophy symptoms?
Estring helped alleviate my postmenopausal symptoms, including vaginal dryness.

Would you recommend Estring to other women who are experiencing painful sexual issues after menopause, but aren’t doing anything about it?
Absolutely, I would. I would tell them to talk to their doctors. I had so many discussions with my doctor about painful sex, and finally after trying different treatment options, we agreed Estring was the best fit for me – but I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am today if I wasn’t open and honest with my doctor.

You also need to talk it over with your spouse, if it involves your intimacy, because that can affect your relationship – at least in my experience.

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What would you say to all the women who are embarrassed?
That’s difficult for me to answer, because I’m not that way. But if anything is affecting your health and the comfort of your life, you have to get over that embarrassment. Talk about all your symptoms with your doctor. You should feel comfortable opening up about every symptom you’re experiencing. There’s no reason to suffer in silence – schedule that doctor’s appointment today!

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ESTRING IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION

Using estrogen alone may increase your chance of getting cancer of the uterus (womb). Report any unusual vaginal bleeding right away while you are using ESTRING. Vaginal bleeding after menopause may be a warning sign of cancer of the uterus (womb). Your healthcare provider should check any unusual vaginal bleeding to find out the cause.

Do not use estrogens, with or without progestins, to prevent heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, or dementia (decline in brain function).

Using estrogen alone may increase your chances of getting strokes or blood clots. Using estrogens with progestins may increase your chances of getting heart attacks, strokes, breast cancer, or blood clots.

Using estrogens, with or without progestins, may increase your chance of getting dementia, based on a study of women 65 years of age or older.

Estrogens should be used at the lowest dose possible, only for as long as needed. You and your healthcare provider should talk regularly about whether you still need treatment.

ESTRING should be removed after 90 days of continued use. If continuation of therapy is indicated, the flexible ring should be replaced. You and your healthcare provider should talk regularly about whether you still need treatment with ESTRING to control these problems.

Do not use ESTRING if you have unusual vaginal bleeding, have or have had cancer of the breast or uterus, had a stroke or heart attack, have or have had blood clots or liver problems, have a bleeding disorder, are allergic to any of its ingredients, or think you may be pregnant.

Estrogens increase the risk of gallbladder disease. Discontinue estrogen if loss of vision, pancreatitis, or liver problems occur. If you take thyroid medication, consult your healthcare provider, as use of estrogens may change the amount needed.

The most frequently reported side effects are headaches, increased vaginal secretions, vaginal discomfort, abdominal pain, and genital itching.

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following warning signs: breast lumps, unusual vaginal bleeding, dizziness and faintness, changes in speech, severe headaches, chest pain, shortness of breath, pain in your legs, or changes in vision.

Carefully follow instructions for use. If you have difficulty removing ESTRING, contact your healthcare provider right away.

INDICATION

ESTRING is a local estrogen therapy used after menopause to treat moderate-to-severe menopausal changes in and around the vagina. ESTRING PROVIDES RELIEF OF LOCAL SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE ONLY.

Please see Full Prescribing Information, including BOXED WARNING and Patient Information. Click here for Important Safety Information.

You may report an adverse event related to Pfizer products by calling 1-800-438-1985 (U.S. only). If you prefer, you may contact the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) directly, The FDA has established a reporting service known as MedWatch where healthcare professionals and consumers can report serious problems they suspect may be associated with the drugs and medical devices they prescribe, dispense or use. Visit MedWatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

The health information contained herein is provided for education purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with a healthcare provider. All decisions about patient care must be made with a healthcare provider considering the unique characteristics of the patient.

The product information provided in this article is intended only for residents of the United States. The products discussed herein may have different product labeling in different countries.

References:

1. ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) [package insert]. New York, NY: Pfizer.

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