- Women’s Health
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- Nurse Barb
There’s lots of reasons why sex might be painful after you turn 50. For many women as estrogen levels decline during midlife, their vaginas become much more dry and don’t have the same elasticity or ability to stretch.
What you might notice
Many women I speak to are surprised to learn that they can take birth control pills in their 40’s and early 50’s as long as there are no contraindications. Many women who are in Perimenopause, that is the time when there are a lot of menstrual irregularities, the start of hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness, will benefit from taking a low dose birth control pill to help with their symptoms as well as provide contraception.
Fertility after 40
While fertility rates do decline after 40, if a woman is still having her period, even if it’s irregular, she can become pregnant. Contraception is advised if a woman does not want to become pregnant.
I am a sponsored blog partner of Ensure, and all of the opinions contained in this post are my own. Please do check below for additional disclosures.
Many of my patients talk about how their bodies change after 50, from sagging skin and wrinkles to weight gain around the abdomen. We discuss weight and resistance training, but there’s something more that is often overlooked – are we getting enough protein for our muscles?
After age 40 we all lose about 8% of our lean muscle mass each decade. That means that by age 70, most adults will have lost about ¼ of their muscle mass. After age 70, people continue to lose 15% of their muscle mass per decade. When a person is in the hospital or is confined to bed, their muscle loss is accelerated.
Many people are surprised to learn that our hearts and many organs are made of muscle or surrounded by muscle, which means that it’s not just the large muscles in our legs and arms that are affected by muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia. (more…)
It’s important to note that guidelines are just that, guidelines based upon data from large populations, however they may not apply to every woman that you encounter, especially to those who have unique circumstances and let’s face it, are more challenging and more rewarding as we provide personalized, individualized care.
The current American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) guidelines for pap smears differ from those of the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)
The USPSTF guidelines recommend that Pap smears be stopped at age 65 if there have been adequate prior screens, however it’s not clear what the definition is of adequate prior screens.
There are as many different experiences of menopause as there are women. For some women, menopause arrives like a gentle breeze with barely a feeling of warmth or any other bothersome symptom, while others experience menopause like a Class 5 Tropical storm with overnight drenching hot flashes and night sweats, mood changes and a complete disruption in life.
While many clinicians understandably and appropriately focus on hot flashes and night sweats, many women may be more concerned with sleep disturbances, weight gain, loss of libido, vaginal dryness, incontinence and mood changes.
I just gave a talk to a group of about 75 women at midlife. When I asked for a show of hands for how many women experience urine leaking with a cough, sneeze or laugh, about 1/2 raised their hands.
Yes, about a third to a half of us are having a little pee pee problem. Fear not! There’s an App for that now too!
Strengthening the pelvic floor means you’ll be less like to deal with this possibility.
When I ask my patients to do a Kegel or to try to squeeze their pelvic floor muscles during an exam, it’s clear that only about 1/2 are able to isolate and squeeze the right muscles. Many use their abdominal muscles, many push out and many simply don’t have the sensation. Once we work on how to do the exercises and get women started practicing, most report that their lives have changed, for the better because they aren’t leaking at all or nearly as much.
We’re all busy, so here’s some options to help you stay dry and a surprising option at the end.
At home Kegels! There’s an App for that
For women who want to work on their pelvic floor muscles in the privacy of their own home, here’s a few new options:
Discreet vaginal inserts
Lightweight, small, discreet vaginal inserts that use Bluetooth technology connected to your smartphone so you can see if you’re doing your Kegels correctly. (more…)
Most women know that doing Kegel exercises can help prevent leaking urine, but many are surprised to learn that being able to isolate and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles can also enhance sexual functioning. Really! Strengthening these muscles has the potential to improve sexual sensation, satisfaction and orgasm in women.
It’s never too late
Many of my patients throw in the towel, so to speak, and shrug their shoulders, figuring there’s not much they can do now, and those days are behind them, settling for watching episodes of Outlander.
Studies have confirmed what real women experience – pelvic floor concerns tend to lead to more sexual complaints, from low libido and problems with sexual arousal to inability to achieve orgasm.
“Unfortunately, many women feel that decreased sexual function is an inevitable part of aging,” said Leslie Rickey, MPH, MD, Associate Professor of Urology and of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences; Fellowship Director, Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, Yale School of Medicine. (more…)
High Tech Kegel Exercises with PeriCoach – I was so excited I tried it myself!
Like many of my patients, Jana* was hesitant and embarrassed when I asked about whether she was experiencing leaking urine. She nodded and told me that it happened a few times a week and while she tried to remember to do Kegel exercises, she wasn’t sure if she was even doing them right.
Jana was also surprised to learn that she wasn’t alone. The fact is that 1 in 3 women will experience leaking at some point in their lives. Women are doing the best they can to adapt to leaking urine. We wear protective pads, visit the bathroom as often as possible and try to remember to do those Kegel exercises.
There’s an App for that!
Recently I heard about a new, easy-to-use at home pelvic trainer and app, the PeriCoach system. It teaches women with real time visual feedback via a Bluetooth connection to their smartphone how to exercise and strengthen their pelvic floor muscles, in other words how to do Kegels and do them correctly.
Women can see how strong their muscle contractions are on their smartphone and track their progress. There’s even a secure portal at my.pericoach.com that women can share with their clinicians so they can both keep track of their progress.
Sometimes it seems that everything in our bodies suddenly changes after 45. Almost overnight, there appear to be more frequent trips to the bathroom, waking us from sleep and driving women to map out their days based on the proximity of clean bathrooms.
Then, there’s the worry about coughing, sneezing or laughing and the possibility of a little leaking urine and needing to wear pads for protection. Leaking and incontinence describe the same thing.
In addition, many women also start noticing a slight discomfort and dryness around the genitals and in the vagina, and a new need for lubricant when intimate.
If these are some of the changes you’re noticing, you’re not alone. Millions of women at mid-life find that their bodies are changing in ways that few people talk about.
Lots of things change as women continue on their journey through mid-life. Some, like increased confidence and less worry about what others think, are fantastic aspects, others like unwanted changes in our bodies can be frustrating to deal with. What’s worse? Insensitive comments, such as the one’s I’ve compiled below.
Want to learn more?
This Saturday, Sept 26, 2015, El Camino Hospital will be hosting a FREE women’s health fair from 9:30 to 12:30. Seating is limited, so register by clicking here or call: (800) 216-5556
• Is that a beard? Have you ever considered electrolysis? – The fact is that during the menopause transition, lots of women start to lose the hair on their heads and around their pubic areas (which is probably age related) and at the same time discover alarming new hair growth where we don’t want it! – Our upper lips, chins and necks.
Blame hormonal changes for the thick, coarse hairs that seem to sprout every day. Plucking, waxing, threading are good temporary measures. If the hair is dark then laser will still work. Personally, I have my electrolysis expert on speed dial. She has vanquished both dark and light hairs over many months. (more…)