A survey reported in The Washington Post in 2019 noted that one in five women reported vulvar pain or discomfort during sex in the previous 30 days. That’s a huge number of women who are affected.
But those numbers for women in menopause are even higher. The North American Menopause Society says between 17 and 45% of postmenopausal women say they find sex painful. This is caused by falling estrogen levels, which can result in dryness and the thinning of vaginal tissues and, ultimately, pain with intercourse.
The discomfort can range from a “feeling of dryness to a feeling of vaginal tightness to severe pain during sex,” a condition called dyspareunia. After sex, some women report “soreness in their vagina or burning in their vulva or vagina.”
Women also have reported pain with sex during pregnancy and post-pregnancy. Vaginal dryness during pregnancy can be an issue that might be treated with lubrication. Meanwhile, labor and a vaginal delivery can stretch or injure your pelvic floor muscles that can lead to painful sex.
Urinary incontinence is also another issue that faces some women. While age is almost always linked to urinary incontinence, pregnancy can also increase the risk for some women. According to the Urology Care Foundation, women who develop urinary incontinence while pregnant are more likely to have it afterward, while menopause can also cause it due to the drop in estrogen.
Often, weak pelvic muscles are to blame. Physical activity puts pressure on the bladder, causing leakage. Women of all ages should do Kegel exercises to continually strengthen their pelvic floor. But keep in mind that Kegel exercises effectiveness wanes with the severity of urinary incontinence, particularly if you leak urine when coughing or sneezing. In those cases, treatments like ThermiVa often can help.
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