Sunday, August 5, 2007

The ugh factor

I spent Friday consulting to a pharma company that is trying to gain more acceptance for its vaginal atrophy product.

Its what? Let me explain. The pharma has produced a pessary to help women who, usually because they're postmenopausal, suffer difficulty with... how shall I put this... thinning of the skin... loss of lubrication... discomfort while...

I can almost hear you wincing.

Actually, that was the whole point of the consultancy - to find a way to present the topic in a way that anyone will listen to. Because say the words "vaginal atrophy" and people's first response is incomprehension and their second response is a wrinkled nose and an "ugh" noise. Even women don't want to talk about it, while men simply turn white and start talking football.

But it's a real problem - I know because I get letters about it from my readers. After a certain age, with the shift in hormone levels, many women start to suffer. Itching, dryness, urinary incontinence and yes, pain and in particular pain during intercourse. It's not a trivial issue. "It hurts" say my readers - and they don't just mean the physical discomfort. They mean the horror of having one's most pleasurable and intimate part start to let you down... the strain and stress that puts on your relationship... and the intimation if not of mortality then at least of ageing.

This is not a plug for the pharma product. But help of various kinds is available - and many women don't seek it both because they don't know about it and because if they do, they're embarrassed to even admit they need it.

So it would be great if we started to take this one seriously. If the media gritted their teeth and covered it. If the health profession started asking pertinent and sympathetic questions of menopausal patients. And if ordinary men and women worldwide stopped wincing and started talking...