Vaginal atrophy & uncomfortable sex

Let's get intimate - talking vaginal atrophy and sex with Dr Nighat Arif.

Vaginal atrophy as a symptom of ageing, perimenopause and menopause

As women start to enter the perimenopause and menopause years our hormone levels (in particular oestrogen) start to decrease quite rapidly and can bring with it a whole host of unwanted symptoms including vaginal dryness/atrophy. This can make sex, intimacy and smear tests particularly painful.

So many women find it hard to talk about and in many communities it can be a real taboo. While about 70% of women suffer from this painful symptom only 7% of us actually go and seek help with it. 

To talk about why that is and what we can do about we spoke to Dr Nighat Arif, a GP specialising in women’s health, as our first guest in our ‘Let’s Get Intimate’ series held in February 2021.

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What are the signs and symptoms of vaginal atrophy and vaginal dryness? What are your treatment options, especially when vaginal atrophy causes uncomfortable sex? We speak to Dr Nighat Arif in The Latte Lounge. How does your vagina and vulva feel?

About Dr Nighat Arif

You might recognise Dr Nighat from her weekly appearances as the resident GP on BBC Breakfast and from ITV’s This Morning. She’s passionate about women’s health, especially the taboo subjects and wants to particularly open up these conversations in ethnic minority communities (she translated Jane Lewis’ (author of My Menopausal Vagina) Vaginal Dryness leaflet into Urdu for example.). Oh, and she’s also a superstar on TikTok too, bringing much-needed evidence-based awareness to all things women’s health.

Watch Dr Arif's chat with us

In the talk we discussed:

  • What happens to our bodies when our hormone levels drop and how does this affect our vaginas and vulvas?
  • What's the difference between vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy and how can this cause havoc on our sex life - i.e painful sex, burning or itching?
  • When should a woman seek help with these symptoms? What should we be looking out for? When might things be more serious - what are the symptoms of gynae cancer?
  • What treatment options are there for vaginal dryness and vaginal atropy? What lubricants, moisturisers and other treatment options are there?
  • How can we get better support from our GPs?
  • Why is vaginal atrophy such a taboo? What can be done to address this?

We also answered some questions from viewers about how to treat vaginal atrophy.

During the talk we also spoke about Jane Lewis' wonderful book 'Me and My Menopausal Vagina' which is a must-read for anyone going through vaginal atrophy. Jane's website features some helpful downloadable leaflets, including one that Dr Nighat translated into Urdu too.

For more books about menopause, take a look at our recommended reading list too.

lets get intimate

Watch the rest of our 'Let's get intimate' series

This interview was one of a series of four conversations we held as part of our 'let's get intimate' series focusing on sex, relationships and intimacy in midlife. Watch all of the interviews in this series.

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