Early menopause often comes with dryness in the vagina, affecting your marriage.
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Menopause is no longer reserved for older women only.

More and more women below the age of 45 are experiencing this phenomenon, and some are even getting divorced as a result of it. Early menopause often comes with dryness down below, affecting your sexual relationship.

A workshop on vaginal atrophy revealed that two-thirds of women avoided intimacy because of vaginal discomfort during the menopause stage.

Many women around the world also find themselves suffering from depression due to menopausal effects on their marriages and relationships.

Sunday World polled women on Motherhood &Me, a Facebook group, to ask them about their experiences with menopause.

While some women revealed that they still could not tell if they were going through menopause, most spoke of how the phase changed their sexual life with their partners.

Nozipho Sithole, a high school teacher, opened up about her own personal struggles with menopause. "Mine came a bit early, I did not understand what I was going through. I had just turned 40 and my libido decreased.

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"My partner thought I was no longer interested in having sex but I would experience serious dryness in my vagina."

Other women said their menopause came earlier than expected. Bridget* said her marriage was on the rocks due to her early menopause. "I was only 37. My husband thought I was uninterested in him. I also did not know what was going on until I secretly went to a gynaecologist," said Bridget.

Bridget said she got the shock of her life when she realised that she was going through menopause. "It was as if my life came crashing down on me. I got married when I was 35 to a man I dated for a year, so now instead of having the time of my life with him, I was bored and always feeling fatigued.

"I used lubricants, but I would still not get in the mood and for me that was frustrating," she said.

Bridget said she would try to initiate sex with her husband. "He would get an erection, but when he was supposed to penetrate me, I felt like he was too big for me because I would be dry and the sex was painful.

"He stopped trying because he could not understand why a woman my age would get menopause," said Bridget.

Experts at the workshop agreed that menopause can vary from person to person, but two of the most common symptoms are painful sexual intercourse and vaginal discomfort.

A study they conducted also revealed that 33% of women have more sex with their partners during menopause.

Gynaecologist Phuti Ratshabedi says women who suspect they are going through menopause should consult with their gynaecologist.

"Menopause is a life stage that can't be avoided. Women going through it should get more knowledge about menopause to understand what they are going through."

However, Ratshabedi says the change can be positive for a few women.

Mpho Mulaudzi, 47, says menopause improved her sex life. "My friends used to tell me that menopause would make having sex difficult.

"I actually experienced a high sex drive. I started looking after myself more, and my partner was surprised because I hardly initiated sex in the past."

* Not her real name

- Also see www.dryvagina.co.za

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