In spite of the many safe options to treat what I’ve dubbed sandpaper sex, only 7 percent of affected women use a prescription product that goes beyond what a lubricant or a long-acting moisturizer can do to alleviate dry, painful intercourse.
There are a number of reasons that this number is so low:
- Many women are not distressed by the inability to have intercourse; they think it’s not important enough to treat.
- Some women don’t want , or can't afford, to use a pharmaceutical product on a regular basis.
- Many women, despite reassurances, are concerned about side effects from local vaginal estrogen or Osphena tablets.
- Often, a woman’s physician advises against using local vaginal estrogen.
If you fall into the first category, you probably stopped reading this article already. But the other categories are a different story, and those women either abandon sexual activity altogether or put up with the pain. In fact, in a of sexual behavior in more than 3,000 postmenopausal women, 73 percent admitted they silently endured painful intercourse to please their partner.
But there’s a new solution for women who prefer not to use estrogen or have been advised to avoid it: vaginal laser treatments, a new non-estrogen option to treat vaginal dryness and thinning. You read that right. Not only can you laser your face smooth, laser your pubic hair away, and laser off regrettable tattoos — now you can also laser your vagina.
How Laser Treatment for Vaginal Dryness Works
The Mona Lisa Touch is an FDA-approved medical carbon dioxide (CO2) laser that delivers controlled energy to both the surface and the deeper layers of vaginal tissue to stimulate your cells to make more collagen. The result is restoration of lubrication and elasticity that had vanished as a consequence of menopause, surgery or cancer treatments.
The laser treatment involves three five-minute sessions performed in a doctor’s office, spaced six weeks apart. No anesthesia is required, and most women report feeling only gentle vibration while a slender laser probe is in the vagina.
Women in a recently presented clinical trial reported that after the treatment, they had significantly less dryness, pain, and irritation, along with a dramatic improvement in sexual pleasure.
So what are the downsides of vaginal laser treatment? Really only two things.
First, there have been no long-term studies on the procedure, though it’s unlikely to have long-term adverse effects. And second, it’s hard to say how long the results will last. After the initial three treatments, the manufacturer recommends one treatment every year to maintain the results. Vaginal laser treatment has been used both here and in Europe in over 25,000 women. In clinical studies, the overwhelming majority of women are pleased with the results.
The main problem is that medical CO2 laser treatments for vaginal dryness are expensive and not covered by insurance: Three treatments are in the neighborhood of $3,000. If the results last for years, clearly the procedure is worth it, but you still have to come up with the cash. One woman told me the choice was between pleasurable sex for a year, or a vacation in Florida for a week. She chose sex for a year.
Whether you choose a local vaginal estrogen, Osphena (ospemifene) tablets, or vaginal laser treatment, there is no reason to grit your teeth and endure painful sex — or avoid sex altogether. Mona Lisa should not be the only one smiling.