I'm Supergirl and I'm Menopausal! How did that happen?
You would think in today's modern world that the idea of a taboo subject would be non-existent right? I mean, we are all fairly accepting creatures - we understand that love is love - regardless of gender; we celebrate the female form - regardless of shape and size...
What is frustrating is our inability to speak freely about our vaginas (va-jay-jays, marys, lady gardens or hoohas to shout out to a few euphemisms). We talk about our "time of the month" but not our period. Going through "the change" sounds like you're about to spin around in a telephone box and come out dressed as Wonder Woman (who I am going to say is probably peri-menopausal herself - all that fighting and aggression! Ha!).
Women shed the lining of their uterus once every 25 days or so. This is a period. They continue for around 40 years or so, so there is a lot of time to get used to your patterns and norms.
So, who do you talk to when there is irregularity? Have you bled after sex? Do you notice blood in your underwear in-between periods? Instances like this cannot be brushed under the carpet - it is important to talk with your GP about these things. Most of the time it will be something easily dealt with; but every one of the five women-only cancers can involve changes to bleeding. If we are unable to discuss periods and vagina health we are putting ourselves at risk. Cancer is not fun.
Treatment for a gynaecological cancer can herald the onset of menopause. This brings with it a whole new set of symptoms and feelings that we just do not like to address - sweating, dry vagina, loss of libido… I spoke with one lady recently that had not had sex in 7 years because she was frightened to talk about her difficulties! This is not uncommon sadly.
Psychologically, it is hard to feel sexy and at ease when you have had countless uncomfortable examinations - you feel medicalised. Add the menopausal symptoms to the mix and it is not surprising sex is off the menu.
If we were able to talk openly about these topics, and explain how it makes us feel, we may find solutions. It might get easier.
You can find help in the most unlikely of places - Ann Summers for instance. We often associate the brand with a gaggle of drunk girls holding vibrators to their noses and underwear designed to NOT conceal your modesty! It is that, of course, but also so much more - in store the staff are knowledgeable and kind. They understand the issues women can face. They have been trained on how their products can make a difference. They can help you to regain your sparkle and embrace your body.
In medical environments, professionals use terms like "dilation" and "insertion". They use speculums and sachets of lubrication - 'this may feel a little cold".
In Ann Summers you get rabbits and bullets and fruity lubes in all kinds of flavours. They'll tell you their silicon gel lubricant feels the most life-like. You'll talk about relaxing and taking time for yourself. They'll point you in the direction of their less intimidating toys. They'll chat with you, listen to you and empathise. You'll leave with a bag full of goodies and a spring in your step!
This kind of dialogue is the important thing here - talking and sharing HELPS. Empathy can be found in many places, not just Ann Summers!
So talk with your girlfriends, partners, shop assistants - anyone! Don't let gynae issues continue to be taboo or awkward. Take control of your health and your sparkle!