Entering the menopausal transition signals to a woman that the end to her reproductive years is near. However, even though a woman's fertility is reduced, it does not mean that she is immune from contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Continue reading to find out what every woman should know about STDs and menopause to have heightened sexual consciousness when approaching her twilight years.
Contraception is Still Necessary
Irregular periods are often one of the first symptoms women experience as they officially enter the menopausal transition.
As such, because periods may start becoming increasingly more scant as perimenopause drags on, women may feel as if they no longer need to use any form of contraception when having sexual intercourse, including condoms. However, this line of thinking is incorrect.
Not only do condoms protect against unexpected pregnancies, which is still feasible during the period perimenopausal hormone fluctuations, but they also provide a crucial barrier against any unwanted STDs for women who have sexual intercourse.
STD Rates are Rising in Older Adults
Also, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STD rates are on the rise among U.S. adults aged 45 and older. As a matter of fact, nearly half of people in the States living with diagnosed HIV are aged 50 and older.
As many women start to enter perimenopause in their early to mid-40s, these statistics coincide with their transition out of reproductive years.
While many cases of STDs can be treated with antibiotics, those without promising treatment options have severe health consequences, including chronic pain and HIV/AIDS.
Vaginal Dryness is Not a Common Symptom of STDs
Rest assured that vaginal dryness does not typically signify an STD, but rather it is a symptom of hormonal imbalance as women enter menopause due to fluctuating estrogen levels.
Throughout women's reproductive lives, estrogen is the principle hormone responsible for maintaining the vagina naturally lubricated and moist, an environment conducive to sexual pleasure.
Then, as women's fertility comes to an end, drastic decreases in estrogen cause vaginal tissues to become thinner, drier, and less elastic, leading to a condition called vaginal atrophy. Lack of estrogen can also change the pH of the vagina, further augmenting irritation and likelihood of infection.
Luckily, various vaginal dryness treatments are readily available for women suffering from the unpleasurable symptom.
It is Better to Be Safe Than Sorry
You can greatly lower your risk for contracting STDs by partaking in preventative measures, such as:
- Practicing monogamy
- Using a condom properly before any type of sexual contact (oral, vaginal, anal)
- Getting tested for STDs, especially if you have had unprotected sex
- Talking openly with current and future sex partners about STDs
- Keeping track of any abnormalities with your reproductive health and seeking help immediately if you have any concerns
- Telling your doctor you are sexually active so he or she can more accurately diagnose any condition you may have.
Trying to break down the taboos about menopause and STDs can go a long way to prevent the further spread of diseases. Remember that it is important to see a doctor if you have symptoms that may signal an STD.
The sooner you take action, the sooner you will find relief and peace of mind, knowing that you are doing the best you can today to care for your sexual health.
- AARP. (2017). STD Rates Keep Rising for Older Adults. Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2017/std-exposure-rises-older-adults-fd.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). HIV Among People Aged 50 and Older. Retrieved November 30, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/age/olderamericans/index.html
- Mayo Clinic. (2018). Vaginal atrophy: Symptoms & causes. Retrieved November 30, 2018, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vaginal-atrophy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352288