The Soul Garden

Let's talk about Vaginal Dryness

February 01, 2024 Georgina Langdale Episode 44
The Soul Garden
Let's talk about Vaginal Dryness
Show Notes Transcript

The hormonal changes women experience as they go through menopause can lead to vaginal dryness, which is not a topic many people are keen to talk about. But over the past decade Georgina has been developing and making natural products to support women through menopause and other transitions, and has spoken to women and health professionals about this painful condition. In this episode she talks about the problem, what makes it happen, what not to do, and what may help.

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Hello, and welcome to the Soul Garden. My name is Georgina Langdale. And I'm delighted to have you here with me today. So, today's topic is one of those things that just doesn't really get spoken about. Okay, so menopause, that, thankfully, is getting spoken about a lot more. In fact, it feels like menopause is having a bit of a moment right now, which is great. The more awareness and public education and things around this topic, the better really. But even within all of that talk, there are still some topics that are a bit taboo, a bit icky. No one wants to talk about them. No one wants to fess up to them. And one of those topics is vaginal dryness. And yes, folks, that is what I am going to talk about today. I feel qualified to talk about vaginal dryness for a number of reasons. Firstly, with my business, the Archeus. apothecary. I have been I developed and have been making and selling to women all around the world, a product that I created to help soothe vaginal dryness. And I created it about what I know seven years ago. And in those years, I have literally spoken to hundreds of women and many, many health professionals about this topic. The other reason I feel that I can talk about it is I'm in my mid late 50s And I've done the going through menopause thing. Although it's a bit like a glassy a really it kind of aspects of it keep moving way on past that date of one year, no period. You're officially in perimenopause. But anyway, I've been through that transition have come out the other side. It is so good on this side of the transition. And like so many other women. I have experienced vaginal dryness and here I am on the airwaves fessing up to it the reality is if you look at the statistics, most women will experience vaginal dryness, especially as they go through or when they have gone through menopause. They may also experience vaginal dryness because of medical treatments like chemo, estrogen inhibiting drugs for things like cancer, radiotherapy hysterectomies, bringing on medical menopause, and some immune disorders like Shogun syndrome. So you're not alone. You know, if if you're experiencing vaginal dryness, most women will experience at some time or other. And there is an absolutely natural reason why this happens. So today I'm going to talk about why does vaginal dryness happen? What can it feel like? What not to do and what can help. So without further ado, let's get started. Why does vaginal dryness happen? Well, as we go through menopause, our estrogen levels start to decline. In fact, in perimenopause for a while our hormones, estrogen and progesterone and testosterone are just all over the place. It's kind of a bit of a roller coaster. They can spike and they can also be very depleated whatever the opposite of Spike is, I can't think of the word right now. You know how in when a young woman hits puberty, and her hormones are all over the place, and periods are all over the place, and everything's going wonky and haywire. And this lovely child of yours has suddenly turned into this kind of alien being, who is she, what does she become? Well, in a way, menopause is kind of puberty and reverse, that hormonal cycle is is unraveling and declining. Whereas in puberty, it was rising, you can expect and perimenopause to have a bit of a roller coaster time, much inexorably like that glycaemia, the estrogen levels will just gradually drop more and more and more and more and more. And when that happens, a whole heap of other things happen. You have estrogen receptors in cells all over your body, you know, in your vagina and your vulva, in your joints in your heart, in your brain, literally everywhere. And as those estrogen levels decline, the pH level in your vagina and your vulval biome also start to change. Now, this is really crucial to understand because when you've got normal estrogen levels you have in your vaginal biome, you have good bacteria, and they're called lacto bacilli. And they also contribute to keeping pH level and everything nice. They contribute to fighting off bad bacteria entero bacteria which will come from your gastric system. So basically what I'm saying is your bottom. And what else do they do, they just keep everything really, really healthy. So you've got these lovely good bacteria, keeping everything healthy. And vaginal dryness isn't a problem. The other thing that happens as estrogen declines is that the skin the tissue of your vagina and your vulva, it starts to thin. So you've got this kind of double issue going on the skin is the neck that's called atrophy. And the lactobacilli are dying off. And that's contributing to also to the feeling of dryness. So when you have sex, that can be very, very painful. Now, there's one other whole part of this to talk about as well. So as I mentioned before, those good bacteria lactobacilli do a great job of keeping the bad bacteria at bay. So they're keeping everything moist and juicy and lovely. And they're keeping the bad guys out. But as the lactobacillus they die off, and though because of those changing pH levels, turns out that those pH levels actually levels that bad bacteria like sucks, doesn't it? Anyway. So quite often women will notice as they're going through menopause and perimenopause, that they start to get more urinary tract infections and things. And this is absolutely because of this dance of estrogen levels changing lactobacilli population changing bad bacteria coming in. If you haven't experienced vaginal dryness, maybe you're wondering what it's like, as a woman, you'd be wondering what you're in for an end perhaps if you're, you know, if you're a man and you're listening to this, I'm going to talk about how it can feel. Because I think it's just really helpful, particularly for those of us who haven't or will never experience it, to understand what it's like. So first of all, let's talk about it in relation to six can feel very, it's very painful, often quite a burning sensation. And there's a there's a kind of tightness, but not in a good way. And so it can really feel like you are splitting if things are too, you know, vigorous, or whatever they don't actually even need To be that vigorous, and this can be very painful, you can get splits in the evolvable area which sting like crazy. So even all the best lovely care and attention in the world can still end up really hurting. The sad part about what this can do is firstly, it can start to make one frightened to initiate intimacy, or do something that might initiate intimacy for fear of the pain that it's going to cause. And actually, this can work both ways. The partner of the person experiencing vaginal dryness may also start to get very nervous about initiating intimacy, for fear of hurting the other person. When you have sex after six, another common feeling that many women I have talked to, and myself, I have to add care have spoken to me about is you can get a really, really painful burning sensation at the opening of the vagina after sex. And it's like it's kind of on fire, really uncomfortable. So that can happen and it can last for a few days. Other things that can cause this feeling of pain or or splitting, because we imagine that it's like the skin feels so dry, but like bone, bone dry, and paper thin. And so even things like when you go to the bathroom, and you're using loo paper that can make the skin split, and blue papers full of chemicals and things chlorines and stuff. So that can also be really stinky and painful. Yeah, it's like having paper cuts on your bits. Nobody wants that. The other thing that can cause it is walking. In fact, I started developing my product NatFem Super soothing balm and original balm, because a woman came to me who was postmenopausal. This was seven years ago, eight years ago now. And she said that she was so dry, that she split as she was walking. Ouch. Now, at the time, I was really in the throes of perimenopause. But I had not got to the vaginal dryness part of perimenopause that comes later, because it's those declining estrogen levels that are creating it. So I I had no experience of what she was describing to me. But let me tell you, after a while, I did experience that so firsthand, I can say this is a really painful thing. So yeah, I'm just going to circle back into the intimacy thing again. Often women who are suffering real pain, because of vaginal invovled, dryness, want to have intimacy, but it just hurts too much. So if, if you will, you're the partner of someone that's experiencing that. Don't take it necessarily as a rejection of you, or that they love you less or that they don't desire you anymore. You know, that can be a long, long way, from the real picture. The real picture can be as simple as this just hurts like crazy, and I'm scared of the pain if you can have a conversation with your partner about this, if you're the woman experiencing the vaginal dryness in the pain, a really great way of being able to talk is literally speaking from the eye. This is what I feel. This is what happens. This is what I'm scared of. And by sharing how you feel you and your partner may be able to find other ideas and ways to create keep that intimate bond without doing things that are going to hurt like crazy. So don't take it as a rejection. And similarly for the woman who's experiencing the vaginal dryness and six has been hurting and things and then your partner starts kind of backing away. Maybe they're just doing it because Is this scared of hurting you? The person they love? Here's something not to do when you experience vaginal dryness, so intimacy, often the first thing people do is they go to the chemist or supermarket or whatever, and they buy some, some lubricant and it's water based and it's slippy slidey. And they think great that sorting it out, well, it can actually be making the problem worse. What I hear you say, why is that the why this can make things worse is down to one ingredient, which is glycerin, which is glycol, it's it's a metabolic byproducts of sugar you might find that you get more Candida outbreaks, or urinary tract infections. And actually you can feel drier. Glycols and glycerin kill are good bacteria. So they're just setting everything up for a bad bacteria to thrive because bad bacteria like Hey baby, give me the sugar and they just come charging in so so your whole vagina and vulva biome can be left very vulnerable. So read the packet really carefully when you buy a water based lube. There are thankfully waterbase lubes that have been made that also recognize this problem and don't have glycerin. And so they will often have a natural seaweedy product called carageen. And in them so pay attention to the ingredients list. If it's water based and it doesn't have glycerin or glycols in you know you're probably going to be okay so when I started creating NatFem Bam, I was responding to that woman I mentioned earlier as plea for something to help her because she was so dry. She was splitting when she walked forget about sex. So she needed something for everyday comfort. Now, anyone who's used a water based lubricant that goes sticky will know that it ain't gonna give you you know daily comfort. So I thought right it needs to be have daily comfort. It there can be no glycerin in it, I'm going to keep right away from water because also where there's water, there's bacteria and then you have to get into this whole thing of using, you know, preservatives and stuff. So I went the anhydrous route my products that means no water. So oils and butters and waxes and I'm a herbalist. So I really looked at the herbs that have really known efficacy around certain things like itching, healing, antifungal, antibacterial, all that sort of thing. So I made NatFem to be premium leave on skin product for your bits. So NatFem is good for just everyday comfort. But also it is very helpful for sex as well as long as you're not using condoms because oil and latex don't go together latex will split. So if you're not using condoms, it's very nice for both partners. I've got one customer who says that when her husband is in the mood for things he puts the jar on the on the pillow. I think that's funny. Anyway, if you look on my website, you will see a whole heap of reviews on the product pages. So probably the best thing to do is go and have a look at that. There are also a gazillion others that are coming in on the email that aren't on on the website. But there's just me trying to do everything. I can't keep up with it all. But if I were to think about the women who are using NatFem, I've got women using it postpartum, got women using it through menopause transition. You'll see on the website, women using it going through chemo and men going through chemo as well. I had an email from someone in the states actually just last weekend, saying that her brother is finding it very helpful as he goes through chemo and I had an email recently from a woman who son had leukemia. And as he was going through chemo, he found it very, very helpful on his lips and other parts of his body that were reacting to the chemo drugs. What else things that come up lichen sclerosis, painful episiotomy scars, I've got a customer in her 90s Who still has painful episiotomy scars. I actually cried when I got their email. I'm just actually going to read you a couple of comments. So let me see what have I got here. Your balm has helped me so much. I just want other ladies to feel good too. I've been singing the praises of your NatFem balm and ladies are interested to know more. Could you please send me some of your business cards to keep in my handbag so I can give them out. Other things that can help with vaginal dryness is often if you're if a woman is taking HRT that can help restore the well your estrogen levels are going up again. So the your vagina involve or bio might get a little bit more comfortable and you might not need to use a lubricant so much. There are other things that can happen to the vaginal involve or biome through exacerbated by the hormonal changes of menopause. And they include things like Lichen sclerosis, which is a very itchy plaque II type thing that happens. If you think that you're getting something like that, go to your doctor and get it checked out. It's good to monitor those sorts of things. So vaginal dryness, it happens. It changes everything. It means that your skin in your vagina and vulva area is is thinner and more delicate. It means that your lacto bacilli the good bacteria can't thrive there because of the changing estrogen means changing pH. It means that then you become more prone and susceptible to the bad bacteria marching on in and giving you things like urinary tract infections and stuff. This can be exacerbated by glycerin because it will also as research has shown as studies have shown it can kill off the lacto bacilli make you more susceptible to herpes if you have the herpes virus, and it's food it's like, you know, doughnuts for bad bacteria and the bad bacteria is coming from your digestive system. But there are things that you can do find if you're going to use a water based lube for six. Find one that does not have glycerin in it. If you're going to go So the NatFem route this product that I've been making for seven years Oh, which by the way, so cool in 2022 it was shortlisted for best new, intimate and sexual care product in the UK. So exciting about that. I make it here in New Zealand, but I shipped to you know, Australia, US, Canada, UK, etc, etc. I also do sample sizes for use and clinics. I've got a number of pelvic health physiotherapist, gynecologist, GPS, practice nurses and medical centers, and women's health therapists and using Oh, and even hospitals, actually a couple of clinics and hospitals using NatFem balm in clinic feels really good to be helping women with this really horrible problem. And back to the beginning of the discussion, you know, so many, I've had so many emails from women. One of the things that many, many, many women have said to me is, it is so good. Just to be able to talk about this stuff with someone to be heard, to be recognized that vaginal dryness isn't just about, you know, women's problems, you know, keep quiet go away. This is a thing. And there's a reason for it. And most women will have it. I really wish that we didn't have to have it. But there we go. That's what kind of happens. It's just how life is. So I recorded this episode because I felt like it was just good to talk about this stuff. And by talking about it, it helps us you know, talk about it. I am passionate about helping women through midlife transitions well through any transitions really, you know, I never saw developing or making a bomb for vaginal dryness coming on my CV, but here it is. And I'm just so glad I'm able to help. So there we go. Women, midlife transitions, hormonal changes, estrogen decline. vaginal dryness. You heard it here in the soul garden. I'm Georgina Langdale. Thank you so much for being with me over the last half an hour, and I look forward to connecting with you again next week. Bye