Their elation dims when they attempt penetration and discover that their vaginas feel too dry and fragile for comfort if they try to accept a penis (or sometimes even fingers).
There are several reasons that vaginal fragility, tightness, discomfort, or pain can happen (which I discuss in my books, Naked at Our Age and The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50). With age, especially if you’re sexually inactive, the vaginal tissues thin and there’s less blood flow to the genitals, causing dryness and fragility, known as vaginal atrophy. A separate but related problem is that the pelvic floor can lose its ability to relax, and in its contracted state, the vaginal opening feels too tight to admit a penis or a larger-than-slim sex toy.
Here’s how Ellen Barnard, co-owner of A Woman’s Touch sexuality resource center, helps women distinguish between menopause-related vaginal dryness and atrophy and “high tone pelvic floor dysfunction” that can be caused by the lack of blood flow to the genitals after menopause:
If you feel like your skin is very dry, fragile and tears easily then you have vaginal dryness and atrophy. You may experience tearing during penetrative sex and find a little bit of pink discharge after sex. If you feel like the skin is stretching or tearing at the opening of the vagina that is another sign of vaginal atrophy. A good quality, long lasting lubricant relieves your symptoms, and the Vaginal Renewal program will provide further relief and comfort both during daily activities and during sex.
If you engage in penetrative sex and your partner feels like they “hit a wall” either at the opening of the vagina or about 1-1/2 inches inside, or you feel pain deep inside the vagina with deeper penetration you may have an over-tight pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is made up of 3 layers of muscles. After menopause, those muscles can tighten up and not relax because there is not enough blood going to them once estrogen is no longer present.
If this happens to you then your first step is to see a pelvic floor therapist and get an evaluation of your pelvic floor muscles. If you have over-tight muscles the therapist can work with you to get them relaxed and learn appropriate exercises so you can consciously relax them once the therapy is over.
The Vaginal Renewal program may or may not help your pelvic floor muscles, so it is important to get additional help if the description above sounds like what happens to you.
Part of this program is at least one orgasm a week (you don’t need a partner for that!) and internal massage using vibration. Yes, really. Internal massage with vibration brings blood flow to the vagina and helps strengthen the tissues. If you’re so tight that insertion hurts, slim wands (a.k.a. dilators) will help. These start very slim and progress in graduated sizes as your body adapts and is able to accept more. Barnard adds,
A set of dilators may be used to treat the involuntary tightening of the outermost layer of the pelvic floor that happens with a condition called vaginismus, or when you have high tone pelvic floor dysfunction (over tightening of the pelvic floor muscles that surround the vagina) in the outermost, middle and/or deep layers of the pelvic floor. You would work with a pelvic floor therapist to use the dilators to help you learn how to relax with progressively larger dilators inside the vagina. This work may be accompanied by other work such as psychotherapy when the tightening is caused by pain or trauma; meditation; and relaxation breathing in the case of high tone pelvic floor dysfunction.
It used to be a hassle to even find vaginal dilators, but A Woman’s Touch has done the research and development and created FDA-registered, therapeutic vibrating wands that are ideal for the Vaginal Renewal program:
|Sizes 2 and 1|
The FeMani Vibrating Massage Wand is made of smooth, durable, medical-grade ABS plastic and comes in three graduated widths: Size 1 (3/4″ diameter), Size 2 (1″ diameter), and Size 3 (1-3/8″ diameter).
Order two sizes in a kit with one silicone controller (detachable handle that controls the vibrations). These vibrating wands use AAA or AA batteries (included), depending on the size.
To figure out the size that’s right for you, A Woman’s Touch recommends this:
Determine how many lubricated fingers you can insert into your vagina when you are not aroused. For one finger, choose the 1 & 2 set, for two fingers choose the 2 & 3 set. If you are unsure or between sizes, we recommend choosing the smaller choice, which will still provide the beneficial massage without the potential strain or discomfort of being too big.
Using vibrating wands is a process for your own sexual health and the health of a relationship you might have now or in the future–and it can be extremely pleasurable, besides!