Medically Reviewed by Dr. Melissa Thompson, PT, DPT, MTC
Dr. Thompson is board certified and the owner of Louisiana Pelvic Health. Her expertise is in alleviating bladder, bowel, and sexual pain symptoms during pregnancy, postpartum, and throughout a woman's life.
There are TONS of opinions when it comes to masturbation.
Especially when it involves women.
And lot of times, those opinions are very intense and one-sided. They're opinions, not based in fact or science.
But, what does the medical field have to say about masturbation and how it relates to women's’ health?
This guide shares what 5 doctors and the Harvard medical community have to say about the effects of regular masturbation on women’s health as it relates to menopause.
What happens during menopause?Before we jump into the medical opinions of masturbation, it’s important to understand exactly what happens during menopause: Menopause is the end of a woman’s reproductive cycle. And, consequently, the end of her having periods. There’s much more to it, but that’s what it is at a basic level. Unfortunately, menopause can bring on a lot of uncomfortable symptoms:
- Hot flashes
- Urinary incontinence
- Joint pain
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal Atrophy
- Painful sex
- And more
Three symptoms that will be discussed in this article are vaginal dryness, vaginal atrophy, and painful sex.
As menopause progresses, it makes sense why the vagina can become much dryer and the sex more painful.
So, this isn’t a small issue... The next section shares the 3 main reasons why these symptoms happen.
Menopause pain during sex - 3 reasons why it happens:
As menopause progresses, your body changes. And some of those changes can lead to pain during sex. Here are the main 3 reasons why it can be painful:
1. Vaginal Dryness
Normally, the vaginal walls stay lubricated. But during menopause, there’s a drop in estrogen which can significantly reduce the amount of vaginal fluid available to successfully coat the skin.
Without moisture, the vagina can become dry.
And, it’s obvious that some sort of lubricant is absolutely necessary during sex.
Therefore, if there’s a lack of lubricant (or using the wrong types of lubricant…), then sex can become quite painful.
Make sure to use an all-natural lubricant that not only makes sex less painful (and more enjoyable) that nourishes your vaginal skin and health.
2. Thinning of the Vaginal Skin
Vaginal atrophy also happens because of a lack of estrogen. Not only does it cause the vaginal skin to thin, but it inflames the skin. Vaginal dryness combined with thin skin can make sex quite painful. Here’s the issue though: Vaginal atrophy gets worse with a lack of blood flow to the area. But, the main source of blood flow is regular sexual activity... And with sex being painful, it’s hard to do regularly. Quite the conundrum. We’ll get to a solution in the next section.
3. Vaginal “Tightness”
The vagina may actually shorten and become “tighter” at the opening during the process of menopause. With these tightened vaginal tissues, sex can become more painful due to a lack of elasticity. These three causes of dyspareunia (pain during sex) are not irreversible. There are things that you can do to strengthen the vagina, re-lubricate the vaginal skin, and re-energize the elasticity of your vagina. And, one of those things can be pretty dang enjoyable too, while simultaneously influencing your vaginal health.
Post-menopausal pain with intercourse can also be treated by a pelvic floor physical therapist (and is one of the top lines of treatment) for the tightness that occurs. A pelvic floor PT can go through exercises, stretches, and advise on lubricant use.
Is masturbation really the solution?
Masturbation is taboo to some and regular practice for others. It’s mostly associated with men, but nearly 40% of women have masturbated within the last year. There’s really no reason to get into the politics of it: That’s not with this article is about. This article is looking at the real facts of masturbation on how it relates to women’s health during and after menopause.
Below is what 5 doctors and Harvard have to say about masturbation:
1. Dr. Judi Chervenak - “[Masturbation] can ease postmenopause sex problems”
Here’s why Dr. Chervenak, featured on WebMD, believes that masturbation can help:
Masturbation, while using a lubricant of course, can “help prevent narrowing, boost blood flow, relieve some tissue and moisture problems, and increase sexual desire”
2. Dr. Barb DePree - “regular vibrator use will be beneficial to [women's] health”
Here’s why Dr. DePree, featured on HuffPost, believes that masturbation (specifically with a vibrator used internally) can help:
It’s simple. Vibrators used internally stimulate pelvic blood flow. She looks at the vagina a like any other muscle - “use it or lose it.” She believes that regular vibrator use can “ward off conditions such as painful vaginal dryness and atrophy.”
3. Dr. Prudence Hall - “masturbation is a part of getting the tissue healthy and vital”
Here’s why Dr. Prudence Hall believes that masturbation can help:
She believes that during menopause, where certain hormones are lost, the vaginal tissue can become thinned and unhealthy. Masturbation is a way to increase blood flow to the vaginal tissues to strengthen and reinvigorate them.
4. Dr. Tammy Nelson- “Women should continue to masturbate in order to keep the tissues of the labia and vagina supple”
Here’s why Dr. Tammy Nelson believes that masturbation can help:
She believes that during menopause, the tissue of the labia and vagina can atrophy causing them to thin and dry.
But, with regular masturbation, the tissue of the labia and vagina can remain “supple” and healthy.
5. Dr. Masterson - “Women going through menopause can use masturbation to keep their sexual functions working properly.”
Here’s why Dr. Masterson believes that masturbation can help:
During menopause, the sexual functions of the vagina can decline due to the tightening of the vaginal opening, the thinning of the vaginal skin, and increased vaginal dryness.
Masturbation can help improve sexual functions for women going through menopause.
6. Harvard Medical School - “Women who are sexually active with a partner or through masturbation report fewer symptoms of atrophic vaginitis.”
Here’s why Harvard Medical School believes that masturbation can help:
Vaginal atrophy, as stated above, is when the vaginal tissues begin to deteriorate. And it can lead to painful sex (and other symptoms).
By maintaining sexual activity through masturbation, women can regularly produce blood flow that heals and nourishes those tissues.
So, is masturbation the answer?
We are not saying that masturbation is going to solve all of your problems.
But, as shown above by medical doctors, medical literature, and medical institutions like the Harvard Medical School, masturbation can be beneficial.
We have some additional guidelines to follow when considering to masturbate for your vaginal health:
1. Use a healthy, all-natural lubricant:
Most lubricants out there have NASTY ingredients.
And since the vaginal skin is highly absorbent, all of those nasty chemicals are going directly into your bloodstream. Not good.
Your vagina can really benefit from certain nutrients that, alongside masturbation, can massively decrease vaginal dryness and atrophy.
2. Use a dildo or vibrator INTERNALLY:
Sure, clitoral orgasms are great. And they still supply a healthy amount of blood flow to the vagina.
But by using a vibrator or dildo internally, you’ll be supplying even more blood flow to the internal vaginal tissues to strengthen and reinvigorate them.
Dr. Thompson's favorite vibrators, The Intimate Rose Vibrating Pelvic Wand, doubles as an internal wand to massage. Use code MELISSA8 for $5.00 off.
3. Enjoy yourself:
Masturbation can increase blood flow to reduce vaginal dryness and pain which produce a bunch of physical benefits.
But, there are also mental and emotional benefits of sexual pleasure and orgasms. While you’re strengthening your vaginal health, you might as well also be boosting your mental and emotional health.
What is the best vibrator to use for a woman going through menopause