As estrogen begins to wane in the body—whether from aging, cancer treatments, thyroid issues, or another reason—women can experience a host of uncomfortable side effects, from vaginal dryness and soreness to incontinence issues. The symptoms can be radically life-changing and negatively impact all areas of life—especially your sex life.
A lack of estrogen can lead to problems getting wet before or during sex, which in turn can cause painful sex and as a result, possibly dreading the act all together. What’s worse, many women choose to suffer through these symptoms instead of seeking out solutions. “If something is bothering you and impacting your quality of life, you can—and should—talk to your doctor,” says Dr. Rekha Tailor, a cosmetic doctor and intimate health specialist. “There are effective treatments available.”
These treatments—usually marketed broadly as “vaginal rejuvenation”—have come a long way in recent years. They include the use of gentle lasers or radiofrequency to help stimulate the tissues inside and outside the vagina, encouraging collagen and elastin growth.
Though clinical research into these types of treatments is still in its infancy, early results have shown promise, with one study showing that one type of vaginal laser treatment proved just as effective as vaginal estrogen cream at improving menopausal symptoms and sexual function.
To help you navigate the complex and emerging world of vaginal rejuvenation treatments, here’s a guide that covers the basics: how these treatments work, what to look for, and what to expect during and after the procedures.
How Does Vaginal Rejuvenation Work?
Most vaginal laser options available today use fractional CO2 lasers. This tech has long been used for facial resurfacing to treat wrinkles and scarring and is now being used for vaginal rejuvenation as well.
The treatment works by pixelating the light and heat of the laser to make microscopic ablations (a.k.a. cuts) in the tissue while also heating the surrounding area. This helps stimulate collagen and elastin growth and encourages the production of new tissue. “This treatment can really be life changing,” says Dr. Tailor. “It can massively improve vaginal dryness and sexual enjoyment.”
Another option is radiofrequency lasers, which don’t cut the skin but rather stimulate and heat the skin to produce a similar effect as a CO2 laser.
Treatments that use electromagnetic pulses work by stimulating the pelvic floor muscles at an intense rate that encourages overall tightening.
What Are The Types of Vaginal Rejuvenation Treatments?
Most of the latest treatments for vaginal rejuvenation use laser technology, radiofrequency waves, or electromagnetic pulses to stimulate the vaginal tissue. And while there are new lasers and treatments coming out all the time, here are a few of the most common options right now:
MonaLisa Touch: This fractional CO2 laser treatment takes less than five minutes, and is often used to treat the symptoms of vulvo-vaginal atrophy (VVA), which can include symptoms like vaginal dryness, burning, discomfort or pain during intercourse, urinary incontinence, and vaginal discharge. Though a doctor can recommend the right series of treatments, most women should expect around three treatments over the course of 18 weeks, with a follow up once-a-year treatment.
FemiLift: Though it uses the same CO2 laser technology as MonaLisa Touch, treatments with FemiLift can take a little longer, with sessions lasting about 15 to 20 minutes. The treatment can also help with VVA symptoms, as well as vaginal laxity symptoms that can arise due to childbirth and aging. As with any CO2 laser, best results are usually seen after three treatments done four to six weeks apart.
ThermiVa: This radiofrequency treatment can be used on both internal and external vaginal tissue to help with overall tightening and collagen stimulation. The painless treatment lasts around 30 minutes. “It helps for internal improvements including tightening, improved lubrication, and urinary incontinence,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Bruce Katz of JUVA Skin and Laser Center in New York City. These results typically only last for about 9 to 12 months, but the treatment can be repeated after that time.
EMSella: If incontinence or general vaginal laxity is one of your main concerns, the EMsella may be a good option. The treatment uses electromagnetic energy to stimulate pelvic floor contractions. “One treatment with EMSella is equivalent to 11,200 Kegel exercises,” says Katz. Patients sit on a chair that delivers the pulses painlessly. Treatments take about 30 minutes and need to be done six times, ideally twice per week.
No matter what treatment you choose, it’s essential you don’t rush into a decision. “Take your time to do your research and ensure that your doctor has the relevant knowledge to offer a safe and effective treatment as well as thorough aftercare,” says Dr. Tailor.
What Should I Expect During Vaginal Rejuvenation Treatment?
For most treatments, you can expect to be seated just like you would be during your annual gynecological exam, with the laser delivery tool or radiofrequency device placed into your vagina while your doctor operates the machine. Most treatments are quick and painless, though your doctor may apply some topical numbing cream.
Unlike the “vaginal rejuvenation” techniques of the past that required surgery and incisions, these new technologies are outpatient procedures that require very little down time afterward. That said, Dr. Tailor recommends avoiding sex for five days after a vaginal rejuvenation treatment to give the vagina sufficient time to heal.
Are There Any Side Effects to Vaginal Rejuvenation ?
You might see some discharge or redness, says Dr. Tailor, or experience general soreness for a few days after treatment. If something doesn’t feel or look right, however, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
How Soon Will I Notice Results?
Many women start to notice results right away. That said, it may take a few weeks—especially if you’ve received a treatment that requires a handful of sessions to experience the full range of effects. Your doctor can advise you on the right treatment frequency and give you a better sense as to when you can expect to see a difference.
How Much Does Vaginal Rejuvenation Cost?
A single treatment can range in cost from $800 to $2,000, with radiofrequency tending to be a little more affordable than laser treatments. While most insurance doesn’t cover vaginal rejuvenation treatments yet, FSA accounts can generally be used if the treatments are being used for medical (not aesthetic) reasons.
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