Sex & Relationships: Q&A with Damiva CEO Chia Chia Sun
“Enough beating around the bush. Let’s talk about your vagina.” This is the call to action for Damiva, a Canadian women’s health company that develops 100 percent natural products for menopausal health. I stopped beating around the bush and asked its CEO Chia Chia Sun about the results of her company’s recent survey of 2,500 women over the age of 45.
Half of the women in your survey say vaginal dryness takes a toll on their sex lives: from painful and uncomfortable sex to feeling disconnected from their partners. What’s your advice for these women?
My greatest learning from my journey and the journeys of other women is that we’re the only ones who are going to take care of our sexual and pelvic health. No one else is going to take care of it for us. Not our doctors. Not our partners. Not our friends. Taking charge also includes taking charge of our relationship.
One of the first things we lose is progesterone, the loving hormone. So we have to compensate by focusing on our loved ones because that physiological effect will have a psychological effect. I often ask women in their 50s: “Are you hugging and kissing as much as you did when you were in your 20s?” Because lots of touching and kissing elicits hormones.
Q: Can sex and intimacy improve after menopause?
That’s very possible. There are women who were unable to orgasm before menopause and then become orgasmic after menopause. It’s about taking charge of our sexual and pelvic health.
Q: From your survey it seems we could do a better job taking charge. 40 percent say they aren’t prepared for menopause. How can women better prepare to maintain their sexual health and intimacy?
One way to prepare is to exercise the vagina. It’s as simple as that. That can mean intercourse. It can mean a device. It can mean pelvic health physiotherapy. It’s just another organ that we have to take care of. It’s like doing Sudoku for the brain or treadmill for the heart.
emotionally, it is quite awful for women to be worried about having sex due to pain.
Q: About 40 percent of the women in your survey don’t know that most postmenopausal women experience vaginal dryness. So perhaps, not surprisingly, “preparation” isn’t high on their list of priorities.
We don’t want to get to the point where sex is painful. If you get to the point where sex is painful, your pelvic wall will start to seize and to respond negatively. And of course emotionally, it is quite awful for women to be worried about having sex due to pain. That’s got to effect their relationships.
Q: Your survey also found that the same percentage of women get information about menopausal health from the internet as they do from their family doctor. What is one important piece of information you want women to know?
What I’ve learned is, quite often, what was good for us when we were in our 20s is not good for us in our 50s. It could be the polar opposite. For example, Kegels could be good for older women, but they aren’t necessarily good. I’m not a candidate for Kegels because my pelvic wall is tight. I need to do exercises that relax me. We have to come into the latter half of our life with a lot of open mindedness and understanding that our lives could be quite different.
Q: What are the benefits to taking care of our vaginal and pelvic health now that can benefit us in the next stage of our lives?
Not maintaining pelvic health can have consequences later. One of the most common surgeries in women over 80 is colpocleisis. It’s a surgery to close the vagina so organs don’t protrude: 25 to 40 percent of women will have some version of this in their lifetime.
Q: You develop products for menopausal health. What else is needed in our society to support women’s sexual wellness?
In Chia Chia’s world, there would be protocols to address sexual wellness after menopause. We would be told at age 35: “Your female sex hormones are going to go down, your desire is going to go down and here’s how you can take charge of your own sexual wellness.” There is very little research on protocols. It’s only in the last 85 years that we’ve had this evolution of women being healthy after menopause, living long after menopause, working after menopause. So we haven’t had that long to evolve to put this information into place.
“Sex & Relationships” is a new column by Sue Nador.