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“I had heard that your libido can plummet after having kids. People say it should come back after breastfeeding, but it never came back like before I had my son,” Lauren, age 32, shares. She recently elected to have CO2RE Intima laser treatments, or “Intima” for short. “I could tell a difference after the first treatment. Really! I could just feel the blood flowing down there more.”

Yes, babies, age, hormones, perimenopause, post-menopause … they can all play a number on a woman’s vaginal health. From itching and burning, to mild incontinence issues and our ability to enjoy sex, symptoms may start out slowly and then you find yourself wondering what the heck is going on. Perhaps you are avoiding sex because it’s uncomfortable or painful. As we age, our natural lubrication lessens, and you may think the only answer is Vagisil because at least it shows up in a commercial in your family room — meaning you don’t have to talk to anyone about this embarrassing topic. But, that’s the thing. None of these topics need to be embarrassing, and a solution — a permanent solution — exists.

Lauren, a patient at REN Dermatology in Franklin, goes on to say, “I wanted to tighten up what had been stretched out, and I just felt like I looked a lot older than I am down south. I thought, ‘If they can fix that, it would be great!’ That was a plus, but incontinence was my biggest issue after having my son. I would go to the bathroom three times before running around the neighborhood, and oh-my-gosh, if I had a big sneeze?! From a sexual standpoint, the thought of it being even better than before I had our son? Wow.”

StyleBlueprint talked to Lauren after just two of her three scheduled Intima treatments, and she said it’s already improved her incontinence, her appearance and her sexual pleasure. Asked if she would recommend it to a friend, she gushed, “Definitely!”

Dr. Jennifer Lee and Dr. Christine Gelbard
At REN Dermatology, both Dr. Jennifer Lee (left) and Dr. Christina Gelbard (right) are easy to talk to about these below-the-belt issues. Both can perform the Intima laser treatments.

But let’s back up and explain how the CO2RE Intima laser actually works. It works internally on your vaginal tissue and externally on the labia using controlled energy to stimulate the cells to make more collagen. This changes the skin tissue and actually “reverses the signs of aging” as it heals, restoring your skin’s flexibility and shape while simultaneously improving moisture levels by building back up the secretory glands. According to Dr. Christina Gelbard, with REN Dermatology, when you treat the thinning tissue, it becomes healthy tissue again, plumping up that mucosa (the term for the tissue that makes up the vaginal walls), which therefore is healthier and produces more lubrication. Who knew?

Normal Intima treatments can include both internal and external treatments, which can treat all of the following: vaginal burning, itching and dryness; painful intercourse due to decreased moisture and lubrication; cosmetic changes that naturally occur as we age, including darkening pigmentation changes and sagging vulva skin; and mild incontinence issues, which are especially prevalent after childbirth.

We next followed up with another REN Dermatology patient, Jamie, age 41. She has completed one of the three suggested Intima treatments and has already received great results. “I didn’t look as good as I used to down there, and I missed looking that way and feeling that way. This experience has almost been like an advanced Kegel … I don’t know how else to explain it! It’s all been about getting back to feeling good about myself.”

And after one treatment? “Oh my gosh … I didn’t expect anything to change until after the last treatment, but within a week I felt my muscles inside again,” Jamie shares. “I felt a tightening. I had sex about a week after, and it felt like I was years younger. That is not an exaggeration. Ironically, my husband has struggled with erectile dysfunction for the past few years, and even though I hadn’t told him I had done this treatment, he couldn’t hold back. That has not been the case for years.”

Did it help with lubrication? “Well, I could still lubricate pretty well, but my biggest issue was being able to be ready … you know, for my vagina to plump up! I just felt numb over time, and it was hard to reach orgasm. Now, because I’m feeling better down there, I’m thinking about sex more, and I’m having sex more. I really did not expect it to work this well.”

If you are like us, you’re likely wondering what exactly to expect at an Intima treatment appointment. I had Dr. Gelbard talk us through all the nitty, gritty details. “Typically we are able to treat both the external and internal areas all at once. On treatment days, you can expect to be in our office for about an hour. At this point, we’ve already had a face-to-face consultation, but we talk again to review what to expect and what we’re going to do. Then, we put numbing cream on for the external treatment — it’s not needed for the internal one. We start with the internal laser, and it feels very similar to a trans-vaginal ultrasound, which many women experience in the early part of a pregnancy. It has a laser window on it and most women feel pressure, but not it’s uncomfortable. We treat the entire vaginal wall around in a circle, moving a centimeter forward at a time. Again, most people can’t feel the actual laser treatment.” She goes on to say, “Then we move on to the external areas, which we applied numbing cream to at the beginning of the appointment, ensuring that it’s had time to work and the area is as numb as it needs to be. With the external treatment, some patients say it feels more like heat, but not painful. Then you are done and we review what to do, including no sex or tampons for seven days! As far as the healing goes, you will feel just fine to go grocery shopping or back to work immediately afterwards. As the internal vaginal wall heals, there is very little, if any, pain. The external labia skin can feel like windburn, but the healing is really, really fast!”

Now, for even more questions answered (because I know you have them — so did I! You’re welcome!)

Do you have to have photos taken?!

No! Not everyone feels comfortable with that, and we get it! It is helpful for us to see the progression and improvement of the labia appearance, but it’s up to the personal preference of the patient. Some people would never have photos taken, and others are the type that really want to see the difference!

If you have not gone through menopause, is this like waxing in that you shouldn’t do it right before you get your period for sensitivity?

YES. While that tissue is healing, nothing goes in the vagina. That’s seven full days. Mid-cycle is best. And, we can’t do the laser if you are menstruating at all, not even the last day of your period!

Once you have this done, are the results permanent?

The changes that you get are yours to keep! This is not like Botox in that it does not wear off. Yearly treatments are suggested for maintenance as your body does naturally age. But, your baseline will be different than it was before you got the treatment, so even if you don’t do the yearly maintenance, you’re still better off down the road than you would have been.

How many treatments do you need?

Three is the suggested amount. But, many women do start feeling results after one treatment, which is exciting. Each treatment is three to four weeks apart.

What about women who have been through breast cancer treatments?

This is an excellent option for women who have had breast cancer or cannot use hormonal treatments like estrogen cream or pills. The Intima laser treatments help these women with the symptoms of vaginal dryness, itching, narrowing and thinned skin, discomfort with intercourse … it’s an excellent option for these women.

Is it weird putting your feet in stirrups at the dermatology office?!

Dermatologists are actually experts in genital and mucosal conditions. Contact dermatitis, moles, rashes, infections, growths … we treat skin everywhere! We are examining the area a lot more frequently than people realize. We actually have stirrups on all our exam chairs, which not all people notice. There is definitely overlap with genital conditions and who treats them: your gynecologist and your dermatologist. For something like this, many women are more comfortable talking to women doctors about their symptoms or bothersome issues. Our office is simply a comfortable place to open up and talk through this!

And, we are experts in laser technology and treatments. We’ve been using the COlaser for years to help tighten and smooth facial skin. It’s exciting technology that has evolved to provide similar benefits for the vaginal tissue!

And, how much does it cost?

The cost is $3,000 for all three treatments. This includes the initial consult, the internal and external treatments, any follow up if needed … everything.

So, ladies there you have it. All the uncomfortable questions have been asked and answered. If you start treatment soon, you can start 2017 feeling so much better and be far more excited to “ring in” the new year!

To set up your complimentary consultation with Dr. Christina Gelbard at REN Dermatology, schedule your appointment online or call them at (615) 835-3220. And let them know that you read about it on StyleBlueprint (for special promo pricing)!

This article was sponsored by REN Dermatology.

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