I'm postmenopausal and often have vaginal dryness, which makes intercourse painful. Is there anything I can do about it?

Answers from Shannon K. Laughlin-Tommaso, M.D.

Vaginal dryness can be a problem for many postmenopausal women. Vaginal dryness is a hallmark sign of vaginal atrophy (atrophic vaginitis) — a condition in which vaginal tissues become thinner and more easily irritated — resulting from the natural decline in your body's estrogen levels during menopause.

To remedy vaginal dryness and painful intercourse (dyspareunia) associated with it, your doctor might recommend:

  • A low-dose vaginal estrogen cream, tablet or ring, to reinvigorate vaginal tissues. Even if you're taking hormone therapy pills (systemic hormone therapy), your doctor might recommend a low-dose vaginal estrogen treatment if vaginal dryness and related symptoms persist. If you've had breast cancer, talk with your doctor about the risks of vaginal estrogen therapy.
  • Ospemifene (Osphena), a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) medication taken by mouth that's approved for treating painful intercourse associated with vaginal atrophy. This medication isn't approved for use in women who have had breast cancer or who are at high risk of breast cancer.
  • Vaginal moisturizers (Replens, others), applied every few days to moisturize and keep vaginal tissues healthy.
  • Vaginal lubricants (K-Y Liquid, Pink, others), applied at the time of sexual activity to alleviate pain during intercourse.

Regular sexual activity or other vaginal stimulation — with or without a sexual partner — also helps maintain healthy vaginal tissues in postmenopausal women.

With

Shannon K. Laughlin-Tommaso, M.D.

Nov. 07, 2014