I want to write about the unspoken bits of menopause. Today a new customer rang me about her reasons for buying my Naturally Feminine Balm and I was moved by our conversation. It made me feel such a range of emotions: sympathy, humour, anger and frustration. And so I want to talk about this issue, get it out in the open. This is the rant that I suspect a lot of women want to have, but feel they can’t because it is still so unspoken, still so taboo.
I want to talk about vaginal dryness. There, I said it. I want to air some of the things it can make us feel as it affects us. Maybe it won’t affect you. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones, but the reality is if this is not an issue for you then you ARE one of the lucky ones. Statistically, you are in the minority.
Vaginal dryness is most often brought on by changes that come with the menopause, be it naturally occurring, or medically induced. It can also arise after treatments such as chemotherapy. Until you get it, you really have no idea what it’s like.
First up there’s the physical feeling. I’ve had women tell me they feel like their skin splits when they walk! Walk! Forget the nights of passion, this is about daily life. This is about going to work, doing the shopping, caring for families.
Another description is a feeling almost like there is broken glass in your bits. A kind of searing, burning pain, sharp, cutting pain.
most of the time we can't even tell our best friends about it.
And then there’s the sex thing. Well, I hardly know where to start with this. It is incredibly hard for women who have had a pleasurable sex life and looked forward to moments of intimacy with their partner, to then find themselves wincing when touched, let alone penetrated. Do you know what I mean? There are many women who find themselves starting to dread sex, not because they don’t like sex, but because it is genuinely painful and that, dear reader, is a very difficult thing to navigate with a partner.
Then there’s after sex and the pain sets in. It can take days for it to subside. The pain burns its way into your soul. It reminds you that things aren’t all that great down there.
I’ve had women say that they’ve tried so many things to ease the problem and nothing has really worked and so they feel they’ll just have to give up on the whole sex thing altogether and hey, for some of us that is actually fine. It may even be a relief. Menopause can be empowering and liberating and a choice not to have sex is all part of that.
But making that choice can sometimes feel impossible. What will your partner think? How will it impact your relationship? Do you say something and try and get the issue on the table and discussed like grown-ups, or do you suffer in silence? Or do you end up not managing the former and living with the latter?
It can be hard enough during this huge life transition to try to muster up frisky hormones as it is, let alone having to do this knowing that the end result will be agony. Say ‘oh yes! ‘ if you know what I mean.
The media feeds us this myth that we all want to be flat out at it like bunnies throughout life, and that the worst thing about menopause is that it can dampen your libido, but, in spite of this inconvenient lack of estrogen you want to be at it, really you do. They never tell stories about the fact it can be extremely painful and with that pain can come a whole host of misery and THAT’s why you’re not living up to the media hype.
Vaginal dryness can make you feel like your body is betraying you. It can make you feel like you’re betraying your partner. It can place a wedge between you and your partner if you can’t talk to them about it; if they don’t take time to understand what is going on for you; if they still want their needs met.
It can be heartbreaking to realise that you’re no longer initiating intimacy of any kind in case it leads to the other’s wish for sex. And then there are the partners who start making snide remarks publicly about menopause – have you come across them? Well, that just makes everyone in the room feel awkward.
Vaginal dryness sucks. Hot flashes and insomnia are a breeze compared to this problem. It really hits a number of taboos and so nobody-talks-about-it. And I just think that’s not fair and, at the same time, I totally get why it is so hard to do.
The thing about making a range of products for menopause is that women DO talk to me about it. I'm so glad they feel they can; because most of the time we can't even tell our best friends about it.
I cried when a customer of mine told me she had bought some of my Naturally Feminine Balm and it had ‘given her her marriage back’. Another said it made her ‘feel like a woman again’. And then recently a customer of mine in the States was in touch saying that she had tried so many things, including numerous prescription products with no success, but my balm had made a huge difference to her and to her life. And then there was the woman who said that it had helped her enormously because things had been so bad that when she walked she split and bled. And the woman who said how much it had helped her after chemo. And the woman who said that friends had said to her, ‘lucky you, retirement means you’ll have heaps of time of lazy morning sex!’, but all she could think about was how much it hurt and how impossible that idea seemed and how there was no one to talk to about it. So many stories of pain, miscommunication or no communication, loss of confidence (so much for liberation).
The creation of Naturally Feminine Balm came out of one woman having the guts to talk about this problem a few years ago. She came to me and asked if I could help her. I’m so glad she did that because, at a basic human level, I want to help people. I want to contribute to helping women going through all of this. This isn’t about business, this is about a calling, and my calling is to be working with nature to find ways to support health and wellbeing in key life transitions, in the tough stuff like menopause and like the end of life (not that I connect these two things!). I've spent a long time researching plants and ways in which nature could help make things a bit more comfortable and I use slow and gentle (and ancient) techniques to create the balm. I am really proud of what I’ve created and how it is helping so many women now (including me!).
There. I said it. I hope in a funny sort of way my rant has helped you. Maybe it has raised things you’ve been thinking and dealing with? Maybe hearing that there is something natural, made from plant extracts and some beeswax that may be able to help, helps. Maybe you’d like to share your thoughts in the comments below – please do, because here’s to solidarity for the dried up woo woos of the world.
PS: How do you use Naturally Feminine Balm? Easy just put a little of it on your fingertips and apply to the affected area. You can pop some internally as well. It can be good to put some on in advance of intimacy and afterwards. For day to day help, use it as needed.
PPS: If you're reading this and you are based in the States you are able to buy the balm there via my listing on Amazon.