Although many women experience discomfort in their bodies, especially after childbirth, Dr Lisa Chan says a range of procedures and therapies are available.
Women’s Health Through Life Stages
We women go through a host of changes throughout our lifetime. From puberty to childbirth to menopause, the female body undergoes a range of physiological transformations across various stages of life. While we grow and blossom into our mature bodies and beyond, occasionally these hormonal and physiological changes can be distressing, especially after childbirth and menopause. The passage of a baby through the birth canal can result in vaginal laxity and stress incontinence (involuntary leakage of urine), while menopause can cause vaginal atrophy, a loss of vaginal lubrication and dyspareunia (pain during intercourse).
To reduce the chances of vaginal laxity and stress incontinence, pregnant women are often advised to strengthen their pelvic floor using Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises can be done lying down, sitting, or standing, and involve contracting the pelvic floor muscles — a sensation similar to holding in the urge to pee. When done in three sets of 10 to 15 times a day, Kegels will help improve the muscular support for the uterus and the bladder. It’s important not to do them while actually peeing, as this can result in incomplete emptying of the bladder and lead
to urinary tract infections.
After menopause, the main cause of vaginal atrophy and decreased lubrication is a drop in estrogen levels. Vaginal tissues also become thinner, more fragile and easily irritated, and there may sometimes be bleeding post intercourse. Options for treatment include lubricants, estrogen creams, vaginal suppositories and rings, oral medications and hormonal supplements. Your doctor may prescribe them based on symptoms and your previous medical history.
Some of the treatments, such as estrogen supplements, are contraindicated in patients who have had breast cancer, and non-hormonal treatments can be used instead. There are also minimally invasive options for vaginal rejuvenation, which include the use of radiofrequency, focused electromagnetic energy and laser treatments. These machines heat up the vaginal tissues and induce pelvic floor muscle contractions to improve tone and reduce laxity. They can be performed as a day procedure with or without topical anaesthesia.
Results typically last about six months to a year, before maintenance treatment is needed. They aren’t suitable for use in women who are pregnant, have an IUD, uterine or vaginal infection, pelvic inflammatory disease, a history of keloid formation, cancer or endometrial disorders.
Feeling confident in your body and enjoying connection and intimacy with your partner is something every woman should be able to take pleasure in. If you’re experiencing any of the above, be open with your doctor and know that there are various options available to you.
For more stories on women’s health, check out Dr Lisa Chan’s stories here