Andrea McLean opens up about post-menopause sex
The menopause is one of those things that we Brits aren't too brilliant at talking frankly about. We call it 'the change' as though it's some kind of mutation in a superhero film, and it's seen as taboo to discuss it in polite conversation.
But it's something that will affect every woman - and with some going through the menopause relatively early in life (sometimes even in their twenties), isn't it time all this changed to reflect modern society? Shouldn't we be talking about it to help women through it?
Loose Women presenter Andrea McLean would certainly agree. She went through early menopause after having a hysterectomy for medical reasons and unwittingly became the poster girl for it all. Now, she has written a book called Confessions of a Menopausal Woman in the hope of sharing her experience and reassuring other women.
One of the most interesting aspects she discusses in the autobiography is post-menopausal sex, something she had to address with her husband Nick Feeney.
She said the experience was akin to post-baby sex - i.e. everything had changed and starting again took a bit of getting used to.
"The parts we relied on to get wet are now bone dry (you know where I mean)," said Andrea with her typical forthrightness.
And if your sex life isn't quite what you expected at first post-menopause, try, try again, the presenter encouraged other women in the same boat.
"What I've discovered about the menopause is that it's all about trial and error. What works for one woman might not work for another. It took a lot of patience, but we got there… eventually. If I can give you one piece of advice? Talk about the state of your sex life; don’t just put up with problems.
"If it hurts, say something. If you can’t find a way to work around it without it still hurting? See your doctor. It's time we all started being honest about it," she concluded.
After the menopause, levels of oestrogen and testosterone in the body decrease, which can lead to thinning of the vaginal tissue, irritation and dryness. This is when you might start to experience the pain or discomfort with penetration that many women report.
However, please don't believe the rumours that you shrivel up like a prune 'down there' (you don't) and that there's nothing you can do about negative symptoms. As Andrea suggested, see a doctor if things are really tricky and also consider trying some products specially designed to improve sexual health.
Don't be intimidated by lubricants, as today's modern, products can actually enhance sex in addition to making it more comfortable. For example, our Durex Aloe Vera lubricant is kind and gentle enough to ease dryness and discomfort.
Also, self-stimulation can improve blood flow to the genital area - which is important for oestrogen delivery - so perhaps it could be time to look at vibrators to use with a partner or alone.
Finally, remember that the act of having intercourse stimulates the vagina and works to keep it healthy and balanced, so practising is technically good for your health.
Menopause can be a shock, no matter what age you experience it. But don't let it be taboo - confront it head on and you might find you feel a whole lot better.