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.
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.
So many women on our FB group come to us with different skin care concerns, looking for advice and solutions for everything from allergies, acne and rosacea, to sun damage, sensitive, dry, itchy, dull and tired looking complexions. Not to mention fine lines, wrinkles, bags, jowls, crepey, saggy & puffy skin.
But why does our skin change during perimenopause and menopause, and how can fluctuating hormones, lifestyle and the environment around us have an impact?
Dr Nighat has over 15 years of experience in the NHS and private practice as a GP and medical educator specialising in women's health.
You’ll also know Dr Nighat as a TV doctor from BBC Breakfast, ITV’S This Morning and BBC LookEast, and she also hosts her own Sunday Breakfast show on BBC3 Counties Radio.
She is passionate about menopause care and appeared in the Channel 4 documentary by Davina McCall as well as on numerous podcasts, and has been recognised for her exceptional commitment to raising awareness on menopause and women’s healthcare in Black and Asian communities.
Find Dr Arif on Tiktok, Twitter and Instagram as @DrNighatArif