Causes of bleeding in between cycles

Why am I getting bleeding between my periods?

Vaginal bleeding between periods can be common and is not generally a cause for concern. Most of the time women will get just very light pink coloured watery flow, or just some spotting. There can be many reasons why a woman would be getting bleeding between periods, which includes hormonal changes, injury, or an underlying gynaecological, or health condition.

While bleeding between your periods may not be cause for concern, on one level, the ideal situation is to not have any form of bleeding at all and if you do get bleeding between your cycle, it is a good idea to have this investigated, just to be on the safe side.

What a proper menstrual cycle should be like

I have done quite a few posts on what a proper menstrual cycle should be like, but I will go over this again just briefly

A proper menstrual cycle should be between 26-32 days in length and really only have about 3-5 days flow. Any longer than this can be too long and put a woman at risk of being low in iron, especially if this happens all the time.

The blood flow should be a nice red consistency, no clots, with no stopping and starting, and women shouldn’t have too many digestive disruptions, and really, a woman should not be getting pain with her cycle. A little bit of distention and knowing the period is coming is fine, but there should not be pain at all. If you have to reach for the pain killers and the heat pack, or are doubled up in pain, this is not normal and you need to get this checked out.

What are the causes of bleeding between periods?

As mentioned before, there can be a variety of reasons for breakthrough bleeding, some of which are no cause for concern at all. Some however do need to be investigated.

Below are some of reasons for bleeding between periods:

Ovulation

When an egg is released from the ovary, it does create a tiny wound, through which the egg will then travel through the tubes and prepare to make its way to be fertilised, or then shed with the menstrual flow. At ovulation, this tiny wound can also create a tiny amount of bleeding, which can be seen as spotting during the ovulatory phase of a woman’s cycle.

Implantation bleeding

When an embryo implants into the uterine lining and begins to grow, many women experience spotting around this time. This is called implantation bleeding. They may also experience some slight cramping at the same time and all of this is quite normal. Some women may then experience some lighter bleeding as the embryo grows further. They usually get some light spotting, which can be a light pink, or a brown colour. Sometimes it can be more like fresh blood. While this is normal, it is a good idea to get this checked out just to be on the safe side and to also put the pregnant mothers mind as ease too.

Miscarriage

Bleeding between menstrual periods can be an early sign of a miscarriage. Many women may not even know they are pregnant and may be completely unaware they are having a miscarriage.  While it is generally thought that once a woman reaches twelve weeks gestation everything is generally going to be ok, miscarriages can occur at any time during pregnancy.

Termination

After having a termination women can bleed for some time after the procedure, or taking the medication to start the abortion process. If bleeding continues and is very heavy, women need to seek medical advice.

Polyps 

Polyps are small growths that can develop in the uterus or on the cervix. They are often a cause for unexplained bleeding between the cycles. Polyps do need to be removed as they can prevent implantation happening and they can also turn cancerous if left behind. Polyps are a very common cause of bleeding between periods.

Fibroids

Fibroids, or myomas (also known as leiomyomas, or fibromyomas) are growths, or benign (non-cancerous) tumours that form in the muscle of the uterus. Up to 40% of women over the age of 40 years have fibroids and as many as 3 out of 4 women develop fibroids in their lifetime.

Fibroids can cause heavy bleeding, extended bleed and painful periods. They can also cause infertility, miscarriage and premature labour. In many women, they will not cause any problems at all. Fibroids are a very common cause of bleeding between the cycles.

Polycystic Ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a very common condition that can cause irregular periods, absent periods, and can also cause bleeding between periods. PCOS can also cause other issues such as acne, weight gain, infertility and hormonal and emotional disturbances.

Endometriosis or Adenomyosis

One in ten women are diagnosed with endometriosis and many more do not even know that they have it. Endometriosis and Adenomyosis are very closely related, with endometriosis usually being more superficial disease and not confined to the uterus,  and adenomyosis being deep within the uterine tissue. Chronic conditions such as endometriosis and adenomyosis, can cause bleeding or spotting between periods.  These conditions may also cause heavy or painful menstrual periods and cramps between periods. Adenomyosis will usually cause more bleeding symptoms along with pain etc.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause pain, vaginal bleeding and spotting. If you do suspect you may have a STI, you need to see your doctor for investigation and treatment.

Injury to the vaginal wall

During sexual intercourse the tissue of the vagina can be damaged and this can then cause bleeding. If the vagina is too dry, lack of arousal, and not lubricated enough this is more likely to happen. It can also happen if there is atrophy in the vaginal tissue as well. This is called atrophic vaginitis.  This is more likely to be seen when a woman is going into menopause, or undergoing cancer treatments, or has diabetes.

Menopause or perimenopause

The menopausal stage of life and especially the perimenopause stage, can be a cause of irregular menses and irregular bleeding. It can also cause spotting, or heavy bleeding too. Perimenopause is the period leading up to menopause. This stage of a woman’s life can last for up to 10 years as hormone levels in the body change and can be unstable.

Hormonal contraceptives

Hormonal contraceptives are a common cause of bleeding between periods. They can also cause irregular bleeding and this can be quite usual in the first 3 months of using the contraceptive. If a woman misses takin her oral contraceptive, it can also cause irregular bleeding, or a withdrawal bleed.  Intrauterine Devices (IUD’s) like the Mirena, will often cause irregular periods and irregular bleeding in the first 3 months after it have been inserted. If bleeding lasts for longer than 3 months on any contraceptive, it is a good idea to seek medical advice and get investigated and managed properly.

Emergency contraception

The morning after pill, or emergency contraceptives, may also cause bleeding. If bleeding persists, you should seek medical advice.

Certain cancers

Vaginal bleeding between periods can also be a sign of gynaecological cancers in women. Most bleeding that women get is not serious, but it still needs to be checked.  Cervical cancer can affect women of any age. Bleeding between the cycle, or after intercourse, and pain after intercourse, or unpleasant smelling discharge can be symptoms of cervical cancer and these all need to be checked by your doctor, or gynaecologist.

Uterine cancer tends to occur in women over 50 year of age. One of the early symptoms of uterine cancer can be vaginal bleeding. Uterine cancer mostly affects women are in the menopause and no longer have periods, so this is why any bleeding after menopause needs to be investigate and seen as not being normal.

Stress

Yes, stress can cause abnormal bleeding and also interfere with a woman’s cycle. Increased levels of stress can interfere with hormones and this can lead to bleeding, irregular cycles, or pain with cycles too.

When to see a doctor

If vaginal bleeding between periods is heavy, persistent, or unusual then a woman should go and see a specialist, or a gynaecologist, who is a specialist in this area of medicine. As mentioned previously, while some causes of bleeding are not serious, some are and need to be properly investigated and properly managed medically.

Treatment and prevention

All women should keep a record of their menstrual cycle and when the period starts and how long it lasts for. Any abnormal bleeding should be recorded so that you can show your healthcare specialist if need be. Any abnormal bleeding should be investigated and the treatment will depend on what the underlying cause is.

Women should try and see their healthcare specialist for regular pap smears and regular check-ups for gynaecological health.

If women are getting small tears and bleeding caused from dryness in the vagina, then there are water based lubricants that can be used to help with lubrication and to moisturise the surrounding tissue.

There is no cure for gynaecological and reproductive issues such PCOS and Endometriosis, but these disease states can be treated and managed to give women a normal life. Proper treatment of these issues needs a “Team”, or multimodality approach using medical options, surgical interventions, pelvic floor specialists, acupuncture, herbal medicines, hormone therapies, and diet and lifestyle changes. It is about using what works for the individual and not a blanket one treatment fits all approach.

Last but not least, all women should know that period pain is not normal and that irregular bleeding really isn’t normal either. While most causes of bleeding are not life threatening, they still need to be investigated and checked out properly. Never ever put off seeing a specialist if you have abnormal bleeding.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

Dr Andrew Orr Logo Normal 20 07 2016

 

HotFlashes 4 650x450

Menopause

The average Australian woman reaches menopause at 51 years of age- with a normal range from 40-55. Contrary to the popular concept, the female body does not become depleted of eggs at this time, but the remaining follicles become less and less responsive to hormonal stimulation.

Premature menopause is defined as cessation of ovarian function prior to 40 years of age. About 1% of women will experience menopause before 40.

The approach of menopause is signalled by rising LH and FSH levels as the pituitary attempts to prompt a response by the ovaries.

The menopause signals the permanent end of most ovarian function and hence the menstrual cycle in a woman’s life. Sex hormones don’t only influence reproductive tissues but also have a multitude of other functions including effects on bone and mineral metabolism, cardiovascular function, memory and cognition, effects on the breast and genitourinary system as well as nutrient absorption.

There are a variety of symptoms which are believed to be due to reduced oestrogen levels and approximately 85% of women will experience some of these symptoms to a greater or lesser degree. These symptoms can be summarised as:

Vasomotor symptoms– (these tend to be early onset):-Hot flushes ( or “flashes” as they are called in USA literature), Night sweats, Formication ( a particularly unpleasant sensation likened to ants crawling under the skin – “formica” is latin for ant)

Urogenital Symptoms– (tend to occur about 3-4 years after menopause):-Dry Vagina, Change in vaginal pH, Atrophic vaginitis/altered vaginal discharge, Dyspareunia, Urinary frequency/dysuria/aggravation of stress incontinence

Associated physical changes-these are partly the result of the normal ageing process, but may be accelerated by declining oestrogen levels. These may include decreased fitness and flexibility, changes in distribution of body fat, changes in sleep patterns

Loss of elasticity of skin and support tissues (may result in):- Worsening of uterine prolapsed, Loss of glandular breast tissue ( breast size and texture changes), Skin changes and wrinkling, Less nipple sensitivity and erectile potential, Joint and muscle pain, Skin dryness

Emotional and psychological changes– it is sometimes difficult to separate the hormonal from the personality-driven and situational as the cause for these symptoms, but women at the menopause may complain of such symptoms as:- Anxiety and/or depression, Insomnia, Lack of concentration and poor memory

Effects on Bone– (these effects may not become apparent until some years after menopause) :- Osteopenia/osteoporosis, Fracture and bone pain

There are other symptoms which have been ascribed to declining androgen levels, though the evidence is less clear-cut. These may include such symptoms as:
Change of body shape – increasing fat deposition around abdomen, less at buttocks and thighs
Loss of libido :- Many libido issues are caused by emotional issues and changes to lifestyle rather than being a hormonal issue
Change in body hair distribution– Pubic hair thins, hair on the head may thin or if woman carries the gene for male-pattern baldness may recede at temples and crown. Facial hair may increase.

Treating symptoms of Menopause

The main cause of people seeking treatment for the menopause is for relief from vasomotor symptoms, the main one being hot flushes or night sweats.

There is a lot of misinformation about the peri-menopause and menopause stage of a woman’s life. Some of the peri-menopause (meaning before the menopause) symptoms can start up to 8 years before a woman actually goes into menopause (meaning the menses stop). Then some of the actual menopausal symptoms can last many years after the menses has stopped and this is something that is not discussed enough and often poorly understood by many, including many healthcare practitioners.

Some women with menopausal symptoms do not choose to pursue any medical treatment when they experience it. However, some women have severe symptoms that affect their quality of life, and may need to have medical treatment in the form of hormone replacement. One of the biggest fears around hormone replacement therapy is the increased risk of breast cancer. You can talk to your specialist, or doctor about these risks before you start any form of treatment. There are now compounded bio-identical hormones to assist menopausal symptoms and these may not have the breast cancer risk factors of conventional hormone replacement medications.

Examples of some medical treatments available for menopause include:

  • Hormone replacement therapy, such as taking estrogen therapy at the lowest, most effective dose.
  • Vaginal estrogen, which is applied directly to the vaginal tissues to aid with elasticity and assisting with vaginal atrophy
  • Antidepressants (SSRI’s), have been shown to reduce the incidence of hot flashes in some postmenopausal women.

Traditional medical HRT can also help with bone strength and reduce the risk factors for heart disease.

Bioidentical Hormones

The Women’s Health Initiative of 2002, issued a warning against the long-term use of traditional hormone therapy (HT) because of the increased risk of breast cancer, but this study was poorly explained and created lots of panic for both practitioner and patient alike. Since then alternative methods, such as bioidentical hormone therapy, have been developed.

Bioidentical hormones  are chemically the same as those that the body produces naturally. As a result, the body should is not able to tell the difference between the hormones it produces and the bioidentical ones. Bioidentical hormones can be made from a variety of sources that span plant and animal products and are said to have less side effects than traditional hormone replacement medications. Many women get great relief from Bio-identical Hormones, but it is important to speak to your healthcare provider about these and if they are suited for you

Complementary Medicines

Women may also consider trying herbal medicines or other dietary supplements as a means to reduce the incidence of menopause symptoms. There are now many menopausal formulations on the market and anyone wishing to use complementary medicines should speak to a qualified complementary medicine practitioner about what is suitable for them. Never self prescribe natural medicines with consultation from a qualified healthcare practitioner.

Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture

Chinese medicine has been treating and assisting symptoms menopause for thousands of years very effectively. The key to Chinese medicine treatment is that a practitioner will assess and treat each person individually, not with the one treatment fix all plan. We aren’t all the same so why should we all be given the same treatment.

It must be noted that up until recent times the Chinese did not have a word for Menopause and that very few women experienced any of the symptoms of menopause. The only ones that did seem to were the rich and those of noble heritage, who ate very rich and luxurious diets. This does show that diet and lifestyle factors do affect menopausal symptoms. Many used to believe that the Chinese didn’t get menopause because of their higher consumption of phytoestrogens such as soy. This has now been proven not the case, as soy products “do not” have any benefit to menopausal symptoms, but adherence to proper diet and lifestyle improvements does.

There is also some really good evidence to show that acupuncture can assist with hot flushes and also assist with the symptoms of menopause.

Things to do at home

In addition to medical and complementary medicine treatments, there are many at-home treatments that a woman can do to reduce menopausal symptoms. These include:

  • Avoiding triggers that are know to make hot flushes worse. Examples can eating spicy foods, drinking hot beverages, acidic foods,  being in hot weather, or being in hot rooms.
  • Using water-based vaginal lubricants during sexual activity to reduce discomfort due to dryness and thinning tissues. Vaginal estrogen creams may be needed as well
  • Reduce Stress & Practicing stress-relieving techniques. Examples can include mindfulness, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, meditation, yoga,  journaling, massage, counselling and other forms of relaxation therapy
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can increase the risk of hot flushes and contributes to many other health issues such as certain cancers.
  • Do Weight Baring Exercise. Weight baring exercise is needed to keep strong and health bones and it also has other health benefits. You can also look into doing yoga and pilates to help with core strength and to help with pelvic floor strength and tone. Exercising can also help to relieve stress.
  • Pelvic Floor Exercises. Kegels exercises or use of Jade eggs (known as yoni eggs), or Ba Wen Balls, can help with pelvic floor muscles and increase blood flow into the vagina and pelvic floor area and also help with bladder control

Summary

It must be noted that menopause is a normal part of a woman’s life and menopause is not a medical condition. The main reason that women seek help in menopause for is the menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, dryness and loss of libido etc. At my clinic I use a multi-modality and individualized approach to treating  and assisting the symptoms of menopause, using a combination of Medical science, Integrative Medicine treatments,  Chinese herbs, Diet, Nutritional supplements and Lifestyle changes and find this gives the best results in assisting my patients.

Regards
Dr Andrew Orr

(Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Medicine Specialist)

-No Stone Left Unturned

Dr Andrew Orr Logo Retina 20 07 2016

 

Stop Telling Women That Period Pain is Normal

After seeing my 10th case of misdiagnosed Endometriosis this week, and goodness knows what else, I can say that I am well and truly over it and about to scream.

I am about to scream if I hear that one more woman, young or old, is told by their healthcare professional, GP, specialist, best friend, mother, facebook buddy etc, that period pain is normal.

Period pain IS NOT normal. It is far from normal and we all need to stop telling our daughters, sisters and women of this world that it is.

I think that anyone that says that need to come and work with me for a day and see the ramifications of women believing that period pain is normal, just because their doctor, healthcare professional, friend, or mother told them that it is.

I think I should post up some rather gruesome pics of women’s reproductive organs stuck together, their insides bleeding, and their pelvis completely obliterated. Yes, obliterated. That was the words that one of the surgeons used today to explain the insides of a woman that had been told that there is nothing wrong, just suck it up, scans havent found anything and just go on the pill and btw, period pain is normal

No it F#%$ing isnt (sorry for swearing but time for diplomacy is over). Women need a voice and need to be heard. Some of these poor women may not be able to have children, or have a healthy sex life, or be able to feel the pleasure of wonderful sex without pain, or ever hold their own baby, because they have been told to suck it up and be told that period pain is normal.

Period pain IS NOT normal and the sooner we get everyone to know this important fact the better. Sure, a little bit of discomfort can be normal. By that I mean just a tiny bit of pressure and basically knowing your period is about to come. But pain…. That is not normal. If you, your friend, your daughter, your sister, your wife, or any other woman you know, has to have days off work, days of school, is laying on the floor in pain, taking pain killers to get through the day, or beginning of their period, then that IS NOT normal.

Please get them to get a referral and see a good specialist who will listen to them and not dismiss them and may miss a gynaecological issue that could affect them for the rest of their lives. No… scans and blood test etc, do not always find the cause of period pain. Have a read on my other posts about this.

If you cant find someone that will listen and help, then book in a consult with me and I will help you get you properly investigated and properly managed moving forward

My motto is “No Stone Left Unturned”and my other motto is “Period pain IS NOT normal”. If you are in pain with your menses, or even any any other time during your cycle, or having pain with sex, or pain with ovulation, pain with bowel movements, pain for no known reason at all, then you need to get something done about it.

I think if I hear one more poor woman get told that Period Pain is normal, I am going to start sending those people gruesome pics of all the insides of women who have been told that period pain is normal, only to find out that it isnt and all the reasons why.

Sorry for the rant, but our daughters, our sisters, our wives, our female partners and women all over this world deserve better.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

-Period Pain IS NOT Normal

Can we always blame hormones being out of balance, for women’s health issues?

Often I see people posting that the source of all women’s issues is their hormones being out of balance. While sometimes this may be true, saying that the source of all women’s health issues is hormones being out of whack is not completely true. Sure, hormones may have a bit to do with it, but is it all erratic hormones?

Hey, it is good to blame something, but is it really fair to keep saying that women are all just an imbalance of hormones, when they are just having a bad day, or just don’t know why they are feeling the way they do?

The fact is that when I consult with women and they tell me that they, or their partner, or family etc, think they are a hormonal mess, I always have to tell them that this may not necessarily be so. More often than not, when I do my work ups on women, their hormones are actually normal and not out of balance at all.

So why would a woman be feeling like she is out of balance if her hormones are all in normal range?

Well, the answer to that is…. “How long is a piece of string?”

Yes, this is one of my favourite saying because, with any health issue, or imbalance in the body, you need to look at the individual and what the individual has been doing.

When I consult with women about these issues I will always go through a thorough history and testing with them and find out the following

  1. Are they stressed?
  2. Are they sleeping?
  3. Have they had a major upset in their immediate environment?
  4. Are they eating well?
  5. Are they drinking too much alcohol?
  6. Are you taking medications, or recreational drugs?
  7. Are they having too much sugar?
  8. Are they exercising?
  9. Are they taking time out for self?
  10. Is their partner the source of their moods and ill health?
  11. Do they have a gynaecological condition that has, or hasn’t been diagnosed?
  12. Have you had a health condition, or virus, or some other long standing health issue?

There are so many things that can affect a woman’s moods and wellbeing. Stress is probably the biggest factor, followed by lack of sleep and poor diet. High sugar intake also causes inflammation and can affect hormones, but it can just affect your moods. Poor diet and high sugars can also affect gynaecological conditions and affect an upcoming menstrual cycle too. Having a big drinking session on the weekend, or just a few drinks during the week can seriously affect your health, moods and motivations. Try not drinking for a month and see just how much better you will feel and how much better you wake up in the morning. A big binge drinking session on the weekend can affect you for a week afterwards

Lack of exercise can be another big factor in feeling tired. It is a catch 22 situation. When you are tired you don’t feel like exercising, but sometimes you are tired because you aren’t exercising. Exercise keeps the body feeling fit and moods better and your menstrual cycle better too. Not getting enough sleep can seriously affect your body on all levels.

Lack of sleep will not only make you feel tired, grumpy and teary, but it affects everything. Lack of sleep and too many bright lights in your room can affect your melatonin levels too. Melatonin is also responsible for conversion to serotonin, which is what helps moods as well

Too much stress and running on adrenalin does not help the body either. The body goes into this hyper-activated state and that can cause low grade anxiety and also affect the moods and the body’s energy levels. We also need to check if a woman is suffering depression and this is the cause of her health issues, or why she may seem out of sorts.

Then, you could have a gynaecological issue that is causing inflammation in the body and then being exacerbated by things you are doing in your life too. Some gynaecological issues are asymptomatic, but can cause issues with your health, your moods, your energy and yes, your hormones. But, many women with gynaecological issues actually have normal hormone levels, so it isn’t always hormones causing gynaecological conditions either.

At certain times of the year, we are more prone to colds and flu’s and viruses and these can affect our health, our energy, our moods and our systems as a whole. Some post viral symptoms are worse than the actual virus and can last long after the virus symptoms have subsided.

Chronic pain can also throw the body into a state of shock and affect both the moods and the bodies ability to function. Inflammation can play real havoc with a woman’s body and her health.

There are so many things that can affect a woman’s body and it as we can see, it can’t always be blamed on hormones. There are so many other factors to consider, which can affect a woman’s energy, her moods, her concentration and her daily life. So next time you are feeling a bit off, or a bit moody, or teary, or tired, don’t be so quick to dismiss it as just being hormonal. It may have nothing to do with hormones at all. If someone else tries to dismiss you as being hormonal, maybe it is time to be hormonal like and tell them where to go. Politely, but firmly of course.

If you are feeling like there is something wrong with your body, or you feel out of balance, it is a good idea to see your healthcare provider and get some basic testing done and delve a little deeper into why your body isn’t feeling the best it could be. I always make sure I get a thorough history off women and listen to all of their concerns so that they aren’t just dismissed as just having their hormones out of whack. They may be, but it is best to check first and that isn’t hard to do. I think too many women are just dismissed as being hormonal, or that it is hormones out of balance. Nine times out of ten, it is often something else. Let’s not forget that as we get older, we do start to slow down more too. But, let’s not talk about that one as that could be a whole post on its own.

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

 

Atrophic Vaginitis

Atrophic Vaginitis

Atrophic vaginitis is a vaginal disorder that usually happens after menopause. When estrogen levels fall, the vaginal walls can become thin, dry, and inflamed. This then causes the surrounding tissue to lose its elasticity and become atrophied. This can be uncomfortable. Gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and fibroids can make someone more prone to atrophic vaginitis as well.

As many as 40% of postmenopausal women experience symptoms of atrophic vaginitis after menopause, but only 20 to 25 percent will seek medical help. Many women will not seek treatment because they feel embarrassed due to the sensitive nature of the condition. Some women just put up with it believing it is normal. Untreated, it can affect a woman’s quality of life and even lead to increased risk of prolapse and other gynaecological and urological conditions. Many of the treatments are non-invasive and are very effective in a short amount of time.

Symptoms of Atrophic Vaginitis

  • vaginal dryness
  • pain during sexual intercourse, or dyspareunia
  • thin, watery, yellow or gray discharge
  • paleness and thinning of the labia and vagina
  • irritation when wearing certain clothes, such as tight jeans, or when on a bike seat
  • more frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs), or urinary tract like infections(which is from inflammation, with no infection present)
  • Vaginal Prolapse

Symptoms can also present in issues with the bladder and urination

  • painful urination
  • blood in the urine
  • increased frequency of urination
  • incontinence
  • increased likelihood and occurrence of infections, or irritation to the bladder that may feel like an infection

There may also be a reduction in pubic hair, and the vagina may become narrower and less elastic, which may cause a condition called vaginismus.

Causes

During perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause, a woman can have decreased levels of estrogen. When the ovaries stop making estrogen after menopause, the walls of the vagina become thin, and vaginal secretions are reduced. Similar changes can happen to women after childbirth, but these changes are temporary and less severe. These same changes can happen for women with endometriosis and adenomyosis and often why there can be changes to the wall of the vagina. Some of the medications used to help these conditions can also cause thinning of the vaginal wall and surrounding area. Many women with endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids etc, will have increased risk of atrophic vaginitis during the perimenopause, menopause and post-menopausal period.

Medications, or hormones, can be used as part of the treatment for breast cancer, endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids, or infertility to reduce estrogen levels. This decrease in estrogen can lead to atrophic vaginitis.

Other causes of atrophic vaginitis include:

  • severe stress
  • depression
  • Surgery, or treatment to the pelvic area
  • uncontrolled diabetes
  • rigorous exercise
  • chemotherapy

Other substances that can cause further irritation to the vagina are:

  • smoking
  • soaps
  • laundry detergents
  • lotions
  • perfumes
  • douches
  • tampons
  • yeast infections
  • condoms (due to latex allergy)

Diagnosis

The best person to see for this condition is a pelvic floor/urodynamic specialist, or a women’s health specialist. While you GP can help with diagnosis of this condition, it is preferable to see a specialist who has more training in this condition and can help manage this moving forward. A specialist will carry out proper examinations, be able to diagnose this correctly and ask about medical history. They may ask about the use of agents that can irritate the area and cause or aggravate symptoms, such as soaps or perfumes.

Your specialist will also do tests to rule out STI’s and other possible causes of infections such candidiasis, bacterial vaginosis etc. Atrophic vaginitis can make the area more susceptible to becoming infected. It can occur alongside an infection. A diabetes test may be performed to rule out diabetes. A biopsy may be taken to rule out cancer.

Treatment

The first line treatment is usually conservative treatments with topical estrogen creams inserted into the vagina and focuses treatment on the affected area. A low-dose estrogen cream can be used to stimulate rapid reproduction and repair of the vaginal wall, tissue and cells. Women should be shown how to insert the creams with an applicator and then use their finger to help disperse the cream properly to get good coverage of the vaginal wall.

Creams are much better than pessaries, because pessaries often do not disperse well and may only give coverage to a small area. These creams are also safe to use for those at risk of certain cancers, or who have had hormone dependent tumors.

Some women may also need to take Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), in the form of a tablet, gel, patch, or implant to supply estrogen to the whole body. These estrogens are effective, but there may be side effects. Patients should discuss the risks of long-term HRT (especially breast cancer risk) with their healthcare practitioner.

Some women may also need to use a water-soluble vaginal lubricant may help to provide relief during intercourse, for mild cases.

Regular exercise is important, as it keeps blood flow and genital circulation high. Pilates and yoga is very beneficial for the pelvic floor and core stability and should be part of a woman’s overall lifestyle management. Women in the perimenopause and menopausal periods of their life should be doing some form of weight baring and strengthening exercise regularly.

Diet is also important and very effective in the overall treatment of atrophic vaginitis, menopause and gynaecological conditions. A low GI/Low Inflammatory based diet should be adopted and it is important to see a qualified nutritionist to help set out the right individualized diet for you.

There are also herbal medicines, supplements, omega 3 oils, and other natural based formulas that can help with atrophic vaginitis. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are very effective in helping with atrophic vaginitis, menopause and gynaecological issues such as endometriosis and adenomyosis. There are many natural medicines and natural treatments that can help with pain, hormone regulation and micro-circulation for the vagina, uterus, bladder and reproductive organs.

Prevention

Regular sexual activity and stimulation of circulation to the vagina can help prevent atrophic vaginitis. It is more around climax helping, rather than just sexual activity, or intercourse. Some women have pain during intercourse, or experience dryness, so foreplay and being well lubricated can help this. Using a water-soluble vaginal lubricant can soothe mild cases during sexual intercourse. Masturbation and stimulation without intercourse to produce climax may help those women who have pain with intercourse, or who may not have a partner.

Regular climax and sexual activity can also show benefits for both the elasticity and flexibility of the region. Women who have regular climax and are sexually active report fewer symptoms of atrophic vaginitis when compared to women who do not regularly climax, or have regular sexual intercourse.

Regular exercise, such as Pilates and Yoga can help with the pelvic floor, vaginal tone, bladder and reproductive organs.

A low GI/Low Inflammatory based diet should be adopted and it is important to see a qualified nutritionist to help set out the right individualized diet for you.

There are also herbal medicines, supplements, omega 3 oils, and other natural based formulas that can help with the prevention of atrophic vaginitis and assist with circulation and hormone regulation.

Fast facts on atrophic vaginitis

  • Atrophic vaginitis refers to dryness of the vagina.
  • Symptoms include painful intercourse and an increase in urinary tract infections (UTIs), or urinary tract like infections (due to inflammation of the bladder, not from infection).
  • It is caused by a reduction in estrogen, normally following menopause or treatment with anti-estrogen drugs. It can also be caused from gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and fibroids.
  • Topical treatments and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help relieve symptoms
  • Around 40 percent of postmenopausal women experience symptoms of atrophic vaginitis, but many do not seek treatment.

If you you need help with any of the symptoms mentioned above, please book in to see me for a consultation and management. If you cant see me, please get your healthcare practitioner to refer you to a specialist for diagnosis, treatment and management of this condition and its symptoms

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-“The International Baby Maker”

-“No Stone Left Unturned”