anonymous on August 30, 2011

Can masturbation help prevent vaginal atrophy after a hysterectomy?

I am 40 and getting ready to have a hysterectomy with removal of the ovaries. I’d like to avoid vaginal atrophy and have read that a regular sex life can help to prevent that. I’m single…but do you think manual vaginal stimulation would help?

answered by Annette Fuglsang Owens, MD, PhD on August 30, 2011

Thanks so much for your great question.

First, let’s get on the same page about vaginal atrophy. As you probably know, the ovaries release estrogen which keeps the vaginal tissue healthy, thick and cushiony. So when the ovaries are removed along with the uterus, the vaginal tissue can eventually get thin and dry…and that’s vaginal atrophy.

Depending on the reasons for a hysterectomy, including removal of the ovaries, some doctors recommend Estrogen Therapy (or ET) to help keep vaginal tissue healthy. But depending on your individual circumstances, and upon the advice of your doctor, sometimes ET isn’t the best option.

Either way, part of what keeps any tissue healthy is blood flow, which carries oxygen and nutrients.

Specifically, masturbation helps stimulate blood flow, which can stave off vaginal atrophy to a certain extent. And when you orgasm, more blood rushes to the area to fill or engorge the tissues. In fact, studies and guidelines from The North American Menopause Society encourage continued sexual activity…with or without a partner.

I hope this information provides you a helpful starting point, and I wish you good health post-op.

Related info:

Annette Fuglsang Owens, MD, PhD

Dr. Owens is an AASECT-certified sexuality counselor. Her areas of expertise include the medical aspects of human sexuality and sexual problems, as well as the impact of STDs ⎼ and other diseases, illnesses and disabilities ⎼ on sexuality. Dr. Owens was educated at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

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