More and more women are looking to take control of their bodies again after changes brought by childbirth and aging. Some are looking for relief from the misery of post-menopausal issues like vaginal dryness, itching, urinary incontinence or painful intercourse. Others may feel a sense of vaginal “loosening” that affects their self-confidence after having a baby.
Searching the internet for information on these issues brings back millions of hits promising great results, but not a lot of clear answers. Some offer cosmetic tightening services using radio frequency devices but don’t take into account potential underlying medical conditions when it comes to other symptoms. On the other hand, laser therapy systems such as FemiLift and MonaLisa Touch have been FDA approved specifically for treating vaginal atrophy. When administered by a board-certified urogynecologist, the therapy can be part of a complete program for supporting a woman’s overall health and wellbeing.
There are a number of questions to address when considering vaginal laser therapy – which is commonly referred to as vaginal rejuvenation. Who might benefit from vaginal laser therapy? Which is the best treatment for you? And, how do you find a qualified practitioner?
Potential benefits of vaginal laser therapy
After women reach a menopausal state – either through natural aging or surgery, or in some cases where radiation or chemotherapy has affected the ability of the ovaries to produce estrogen – they may experience discomfort from vaginal atrophy, recurring urinary infections and dry skin, along with worsening urinary incontinence and chronic pelvic pain. A lack of estrogen leads to the thinning of the vaginal wall and a reduction in secretions that keep vaginal tissue supple. Early symptoms include itching, burning or soreness.
For decades, the main treatment for hypoestrogenism, or estrogen deficiency, has been hormone replacement therapy (HRT). But that is not an option for some women who can never take estrogen. Women who have had cancer or are at a high-risk for heart attack, stroke and blood clots are not candidates for HRT.
Fortunately, now there’s an alternative. FemiLift laser therapy offers a painless in-office treatment for improving vaginal health in patients who aren’t suitable for HRT. It may also be beneficial in cases where HRT alone isn’t effective. FemiLift is a 5-minute, non-surgical procedure that uses a fractional CO2 laser to deliver a precise amount of heat to stimulate regeneration of vaginal tissue.
“Anybody can benefit from vaginal laser treatments. But, for the patients who don’t have the option of taking estrogen – or don’t want to take it – this is a life-changing therapy,” said Dr. Richard Farnam, director of the Texas Urogynecology and Laser Surgery Center.
What is the best treatment for you?
Beyond the segment of population that has medical grounds for not taking estrogen (who are the ideal candidates for FemiLift laser therapy); there are a number of reasons a woman might not want to use hormone treatments.
Some women have concerns about side effects from hormones. Others don’t like dealing with expensive, messy creams or suppositories that have to be applied on a weekly basis
The FemiLift treatment option involves three in-office sessions spaced six weeks apart, taking less time than a regular office exam. The results can last for one year, at least. An annual maintenance treatment is optional.
What kinds of results can you expect?
By stimulating the vaginal mucosa and re-activating the production of new collagen, FemiLift laser therapy can contribute to a substantial improvement of quality of life. Patients report a reduction in dryness and burning sensation. Restoring natural lubrication can make sex more enjoyable and improve the symptoms of urinary urgency such as frequency, incontinence, and infections. Vaginal laser therapy has also shown results in cases of vaginal laxity, in layman’s terms referred to as a “loose vagina,’ where the diameter of the vagina has increased due to tissue relaxation from aging or giving birth. In instances where vaginal laxity is due to mucosal tone loss, laser treatment is shown to be effective in tightening, reshaping, and toning the vaginal wall. However, it is essential for a doctor to first evaluate the cause and state of the vagina in these cases to exclude illness, pelvic prolapse or the involvement of muscles and fascia weakness which would indicate the need for a different treatment.
Who should perform the treatment?
The advantage of doing vaginal laser therapy through a board-certified urogynecologist’s office is that your health is being monitored by someone with the specialized medical expertise to provide a thorough screening to determine the best course of treatment. Particularly since vaginal rejuvenation treatments of any sort are not covered by insurance, it is important to seek informed advice before investing in any procedure.
“You want it well researched on the front end,” said Dr. Farnam. Because pelvic reconstruction surgeons are experts on all disorders and medical problems of the pelvis, they treat these issues with greater frequency than non-specialists, which results in the highest chance of long-term success.
“We’ll approach with the most amount of knowledge and be able to most accurately diagnose and prescribe the right treatment strategies,” he said.