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Climacteric. 2014 Feb;17(1):29-36. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2013.850480. Epub 2013 Nov 5.

Attitudes and approaches to vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women: a focus group qualitative study.

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* Professor Emeritus, Reproductive Biology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine , Cleveland, OH.



The impact of postmenopausal vaginal atrophy and women's coping strategies were evaluated through international focus groups.


Three-hour focus groups of three to five postmenopausal women who had symptoms of vaginal atrophy but had not sought treatment were conducted in Canada, Sweden, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Participants were asked about their experience with menopause and vaginal atrophy, including use of non-prescription treatments and their interactions with health-care providers. Women were classified as one of five personality types, based on their interaction with the world (individualism or belonging) and strategies for coping with stress (control or liberation).


Vaginal atrophy was not recognized as a medical condition by focus group participants, and women had not used treatments for vaginal atrophy apart from non-prescription lubricants. Women who had discussed vaginal atrophy symptoms with their doctor felt their concerns were dismissed as a normal part of aging, and they did not receive counseling about treatment options such as low-dose estrogen therapy. Those whose coping strategy involved dominance, combatting, or individualism were more likely to seek treatment than those whose strategy involved submission, acceptance, or belonging. Women who used control to cope with menopausal changes were more likely to respond to information validated by perceived experts than were those who used a strategy of release.


Women's reactions to their vaginal atrophy varied according to personality. Use of a personality-based approach to patient counseling may encourage patients to discuss vaginal atrophy with their health-care provider and seek treatment.

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