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Treating Menopause's Secret Symptom.

Don't Ignore Dryness

Knowing What's Right for <I>You</I>

Of the myriad therapies available, choosing the one product or combination of products that's right for you has to do with how severe your symptoms are as well as what you are comfortable using.

"If you are having more and more difficulty or pain with intercourse and are postmenopausal or have had a hysterectomy," says Love, "you're better off going [directly to a] hormonal [treatment] because it's going to work faster."

Kaunitz says many women don't have complete relief unless they combine a prescription product with an over-the-counter lubricant.

Remember, some of these products may not be right for you, especially if you have had breast cancer. Your doctor can tell you which are safe to try and which to steer clear of.

Discussing It With Your Doctor

But how do you talk to your doctor about such a sensitive matter? Don't be daunted if your doc asks you about every symptom of menopause but this one.

"Not all physicians are going to broach the topic, and women can play a very proactive role by bringing it up themselves," says Kaunitz. "I think in general, women will find that ob/gyns are going to be more comfortable with this topic than family physicians or internists, although that is not universally true. If women bring up sexuality or genital-related concerns and don't find the physician is knowledgeable or comfortable, they may want to look elsewhere."

"Women need to realize this is not their fault, and they are entitled to have pain-free sexual activity if they want," says Love. "Sometimes, the doctor is embarrassed. You need to feel you're braver than they are and bring it up in a very matter-of-fact way."

It helps to remember that many, many women suffer from this condition, says Brown. She also recommends that "women keep a journal and write down exactly what it is they're feeling and figure out a way to produce an opening [with their doctor]. I said, 'I have another major problem we need to solve.'"

"No matter what we are dealing with, we should not feel shame because we have a particular issue," says Brown, who now hosts motivational and self-esteem seminars with her husband. "All women need to feel good enough about themselves to believe that they in mid-life are worthy of continuing to have a good sex life."

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