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Prevalence and Impact of Vaginal Symptoms among Postmenopausal Women


Nanette Santoro, MD, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Mazer 314, Bronx, NY 10461, USA. Tel: 718-430-3512; Fax: 718-430-8586; E-mail:


Introduction.  Vulvovaginal atrophy (VVA) is reported by one-quarter to one-half of postmenopausal women.

Aim.  We evaluated the prevalence, inconvenience of, and issues surrounding hormone use for VVA symptoms in women who were current, past, and never users of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), along with the relationship of sexual activity to VVA symptoms.

Methods.  An online survey was sent to 3,471 women ≥45 years old participating in a panel of approximately 43,000 U.S. adults maintained by Knowledge Networks. Respondents were stratified by MHT use (current, past, and never) and sexual activity (sexually active and not sexually active). Final respondent data underwent a poststratification process and Chi-square analysis of hormone use and VVA by sexual activity.

Main Outcome Measures.  Percent, calculated as the ratio of response over total responding for each survey question for all and stratified respondents.

Results.  Forty-five percent (1,038/2,290) of respondents (age range 45–89 years; mean 60.7 years) were postmenopausal and currently or previously experienced VVA. Approximately 60% of past or never users of MHT reported vaginal symptoms; >90% found them bothersome. In comparison, 82% of current users reported VVA symptoms prior to use. 85% of all respondents were aware of safety issues associated with MHT. The prevalence and perceived severity of VVA symptoms were substantial but less frequent in nonsexually active women. Analysis of MHT use by past or current hormone use indicated a trend away from oral dosing and towards patch or vaginal hormones.

Conclusions.  Postmenopausal women have a high rate of VVA symptoms. Those who use MHT do so for multiple reasons—hot flashes, VVA, bone protection, dyspareunia—and most have concerns about long-term safety, despite the fact that the majority of MHT use was for >5 years. Safety concerns and lack of physician recommendation were major reasons for not using or discontinuing MHT. Santoro N, and Komi J. Prevalence and impact of vaginal symptoms among postmenopausal women. J Sex Med 2009;6:2133–2142.