Female Sexual Dysfunction

Many women opt for hormone replacement therapy or HRT after they hit menopause,  while others do not. In this regard, a small study conducted in the U.S. suggests that applying estrogen vaginally has helped curb the dryness, as well as the painful intercourse, for some women.

However, a lot of women have taken the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI)’s federally-funded study to heart and are reluctant to use hormonal replacement therapy to ease the symptoms of menopause since 2002. The study stated an increased risk of strokes, heart attacks, and breast cancer to man-made female hormones, progestin and estrogen.

In a new study being conducted, researchers are working on comparing how vaginally applied estrogen contributed to relieving vaginal dryness and pain in women, who ended their HRT treatment when the study was released by WHI.

Among women who ended HRT and never resumed it, the participants who used vaginal estrogen reported a higher level of satisfaction in their sex lives, as shown in the published Menopause study.

Senior author of this study from Columbia University, Dr Michelle Warren, believes and communicated via email that they expected women who had severe symptoms as well as those women who stopped the HRT treatment after WHI and redeveloped the symptoms to show the greatest benefit, but that was not the case.. Dr Warren belongs to the University’s Center for Menopause and the Medical Center, Women’s Health and Hormonal disorders in New York.

Women stop menstruating typically between the age of 45 and 55 and go through the menopause phase. The ovaries significantly, yet gradually reduce the production of progesterone and estrogen hormone in the years to come, leading to menopause and beyond. In this phase, women experience symptoms that range from insomnia and mood swings, to irregular periods and vaginal dryness.

Painful intercourse and vaginal dryness are symptoms that are thought to be a result of atrophy of tissues in the vaginal walls due to decreasing levels of estrogen. Over the years, HRT has been proven to improve the symptoms of this problem through rebuilding of the vaginal tissues.

For this study, Dr Warren and her colleagues studied sexual health and use of vaginal estrogen in 310 women in the City of New York. The subjects were born between the years of 1938 and 1953 and had been undergoing the HRT treatment for a minimum of 5 years. 36 percent of the women who ended their HRT treatment used vaginally applied estrogen before that, and so did 17 percent of the women who continued their HRT treatment. Thus, roughly about a quarter of the women in this study were regular users of vaginal estrogen. You can read more about the study here.

The researchers working on this study acknowledged that the scope of their findings was limited due to the small sample of participants who were highly educated women, healthy, with normal weight. This is why the findings cannot be generalized in other groups of women.

The use of vaginal estrogen is much safer as very little estradiol makes its way into the blood stream. The use of lubricants also makes sex much less painful for women after they hit menopause. But lubricants don’t work the way estrogen does, to improve the lining of mucous in the vagina to make abrasions, bleeding or tearing far less likely to occur during intercourse.

Similar studies a few years ago attempted to use testosterone gel to produce the same effects but the clinical trials did not produce very convincing results so regulators failed to give the product a license. You can read more about this trial at this UK medical website.

Female Sexual Dysfunction advocates have found it difficult to be taken seriously by regulators and some in the medical profession. The recent approval of a drug in the US called Flibanserin could soon change all of that. This medication has revolutionized the lives of many women and the market is huge. We would not be surprised if much money is thrown at research by international pharma companies for another potential drug that does not involve a daily pill for women suffering with these symptoms.