Vaginal dryness is no joke, so why was the room filled with women crying with laughter? Step forward Jenny Eclair, the face… nope, that is so not the right word… the ambassador for Vagisan and a night at the Vagina Museum in London.
You’d think a night discussing vaginal dryness would be incredibly… dry (I’m sorry. No words seem right!) Being a journalist, I often get invited to posh parties and five-star hotels and restaurants but I have to admit, none of them made me as excited as the invite for the DryVaJanuary event dropping into my inbox (I’m sorry, I’m sorry. That was an unintended double entendre worthy of Carry On…)
I wasn’t disappointed. The museum was filled with bright, positive women all working towards making menopause a better experience for others, from Fifty One Apparel to the brilliant Henpicked: Menopause In the Workplace team. That old imposter syndrome was working big time, I admit.
Then, of course, there was the wonderful host: Jenny Eclair, one of the first celebrities to support the Pausitivity #KnowYourMenopause campaign, overcoming battles with her printer to do so. I’ve seen Jenny on TV many times, but she’s even funnier in real life. Enjoy a bit of her act…
More sex please, we’ve got vaginal dryness
DryVaJanuary’s main event was a panel discussion led by Jenny and featuring Embarrassing Bodies’ Dr Dawn Harper (who wore the best Sole Bliss shoes), Deborah Garlick from Henpicked and sex and relationship therapist Kate Taylor.
One of the most important things I learnt was that your vagina actually shrinks after menopause, which can make sex more difficult. The answer: Use It or Lose It! In other words, have more sex. My GP has yet to write that on a prescription (mind you, I’d probably be told there were shortages at the pharmacist like there is with HRT…)
If you don’t have a partner now, you can also use sex toys to keep your elasticity because you never know what the future might hold. Chris Hemsworth could be about to step into your life at any minute.
Workplace uniforms also sparked my attention. Often with menopause, it’s the little details that can make the difference – and it’s the little details that get overlooked. I’d never thought about the difficulties for menopausal women who suffer from vaginal dryness and have to wear trousers for work. It’s another reason why workplace training on menopause is vitally needed.
Waiting for the No21
I was also glad to hear Jenny discussing the emotional impact of vaginal dryness. She felt incredible guilt when she first started experiencing “a vulva like an ants’ nest” and worried it might be a latent STD from her wild days. “I used to have sex in bus stops!” she told us.
Guilt is something I’ve heard quite often with vaginal dryness. Women have told me they feel guilty about sex being painful, or guilt that they’re not in the mood because they’ve been sore all day. “My poor partner,” they add.
Vagisan carried out a survey of more than 1,000 women and found that 58% of women said they were having less sex or avoiding it because of vaginal dryness.
Of course, feeling guilty about this will only add to stress levels, turning it into a huge vicious circle. So remember: if your partner loves you, they’ll want to understand and help. Talk to them.
And to the 28% of women who said they did not have the support of their partner: change the locks.
It’s good to talk
It’s my old refrain, I know, but all this is why we must talk about menopause, vaginal dryness and all.
How our bodies react to the changing hormones menopause brings is no more our fault than Kevin the stroppy teenager being Kevin the stroppy teenager is his. Our vaginas and vulvas are as much a part of our body as our hearts and brain – an essential part of us that play a pretty important role in keeping the human race going.
Sadly, Vagisan found 41% of women felt vaginal dryness was not something that should be talked about. I wish I could say that figure was staggering, but I’ve heard similar from women who think we shouldn’t talk about menopause. “It’ll make people think we’re old and past it,” they say.
That noise you hear is me banging my head off the wall.
I’ve always been “strong”; fighting through excruciating menopause cramps at work because I didn’t want to let the sisterhood down with my “weak and feeble body”, to steal from Elizabeth I.
Guess what I achieved for the sisterhood. Bloody nothing. I see the next generation of women sitting there in pain and it’ll happen to their children, too.
If we don’t talk, nothing will change. We don’t learn and progress through osmosis; we have to be told and educated and think and act.
When I were a lass, I’d bury my sanitary towels under all the other items in my shopping basket and they would be last item out at the checkout (with a woman serving, of course) and first in my bag.
We’ve come a long way since then because we’ve started talking. Now it’s time to do that with vaginal dryness.
Vaginal dryness, the final frontier…
I hold my hands up as a classic example. Some of the women in my menopause group suffer terribly from vaginal dryness and I’d never understood how bad it could be until I met them (btw, I passed on my Vagisan goodie bag at the last meeting and so far, have heard only good things about the products).
As taboos around menopause go, vaginal dryness has to be up there with the mental health issues – one in five told Vagisan they thought it was the most embarrassing part of “the change”. That’s why we need more events like DryVaJanuary to get people talking – and laughing, too. Nothing breaks the power of fear like laughing.
So thank you Jenny, the panel and everyone at Vagisan. If your vag feels dry, relax, you’re in good hands.