Something to talk about
When women think about health, issues such as weight control, arthritis, and diabetes often come to mind. But vaginal health has an important role to play in your daily comfort and your ability to enjoy intimacy.
Many things have an impact on vaginal health, including age and hormone levels. So do soaps and other body products you may use, and the regularity of your sexual activity.
As you approach menopause, it's important to have regular medical evaluations of your vaginal health — even if you feel fine, but especially if something feels "wrong."
The more you understand, the better prepared you can be to ask the right questions. So find out about the role of estrogen throughout your life, the phases of menopausal transition, and what might be causing pain or discomfort during intercourse.
Estrogen: always changing, always important
Estradiol is an estrogen hormone produced in a woman’s ovaries. Hormones act as chemical messengers — they move through the bloodstream and control the actions of cells and organs in other parts of the body.
For women, estrogen helps regulate the menstrual cycle and stimulates breast development. For decades, it regulates the ebb and flow of menstrual cycles and plays a critical role during pregnancy. Over time, it is vital to bone health.
Inside the vagina, estrogen helps maintain blood flow. This keeps the vaginal walls flexible and elastic and promotes production of natural lubricants. Estrogen also helps maintain the chemical balance in the vagina and surrounding tissues so that healthy bacteria grow and flourish. This helps prevent frequent vaginal infections. The tissues of the urinary tract also require estrogen to stay healthy, strong, and infection-free.
When estrogen levels begin dropping as menopause approaches, this brings about yet another cycle of change in a woman's life.
Cycles of change
To a large extent, estrogen is responsible for the continual cycles of change that you experience throughout your life.