Peri/Menopause, Sex, and a Healthier You!

Mindful Minute

This blog post was written by Dr. Laura Anderson, DNP, APNP, WHNP-BC, FNP-BC, women’s health provider at the Beloit Area Community Health Center.

No, you are not broken.  You are not crazy.  You are not unreasonable. 

As you begin the transition from childbearing age through menopause, you may face many different symptoms.  Often, changes in your menstrual cycle are the first indication that something is up.  Your normally monthly periods may come a week early, or a week late.  They may extend from 5 days to 7 days or shorten to 3, you might even skip a month or two.  This is called perimenopause.  In addition to changes in your period, you may experience what most consider to be the traditional menopausal symptoms: hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, dry skin, thinning hair, difficulty sleeping, weight gain around your middle, and a decline in interest in sex.  You may experience vaginal dryness, burning with urination, and feeling like you have frequent urinary tract or vaginal infections.  The good news is, we can help you manage these symptoms and help you continue to enjoy life.

What about sex?

Sex.  Yes, sex.  Sex is normal and can be a significant part of your health.  If you are enjoying it, you should do it, age doesn’t matter!  It helps keep your vaginal tissue healthy and can promote emotional intimacy as well.  But what if you have lost interest?  If this doesn’t bother you, it isn’t a problem.  If it is bothersome to you, talk to your provider, or seek a provider who will hear you.  Stress, chronic health concerns, and declining hormone levels can affect your libido, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  It is important to know that while you are still having periods, you can still get pregnant – you need to be 12 months without any vaginal bleeding to be considered out of childbearing range and through menopause.  It can be harder to track your fertile months when your periods start to change, so consistent condom use offers protection against unwanted pregnancy.  And if you aren’t in a committed relationship, condoms offer protection against sexually transmitted diseases as well. 

While we are on the subject, sex should NOT hurt, it should feel good, and it should be fun!  As you transition through menopause, your ovaries produce less estrogen.  This in turn, can cause thinning of the skin of your vulva and vagina which can lead to dryness and less elasticity.  This can lead to frequent infections and painful sex.  This is called genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM).  This does not have to be something you live with.  You are not broken! This can and should be addressed.

It is important to talk openly with your provider about these changes and how they are impacting you

In some cases, the changes brought on by menopause may not bother you, in other cases, you may benefit from medication or hormone therapy to help control the symptoms.  It is best to schedule an appointment to talk about your specific concerns – it hurts to pee, it hurts to have sex, I’m not interested in sex and that bothers me – are just a few examples.  Having an appointment dedicated to specific issues allows space and time to make sure you are heard, and your concerns can be addressed. It doesn’t matter what stage of life you are in; you should be open with your provider about your health.  Don’t be embarrassed to talk with them about your concerns, we want to help.  I would love to talk with you about your health and your goals for a healthy life.  Please feel free to schedule an appointment. And remember, once you have gone 12 months without any vaginal bleeding, you are considered through menopause.

You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Laura at Beloit Area Community Health Center by calling 608-361-0311. Dr. Laura accepts most insurances and is accepting new patients.