Vaginal Dryness? Here’s How to Deal.
If you’re consistently feeling a bit dry in your nether regions, chances are you’re also experiencing the itching, burning or pain that makes walking, exercising, or even sitting feel downright unbearable. On top of that, vaginal dryness can also lead to painful sex. About 10 to 20% of American women experience painful sex, which can ultimately cause a dwindling sex drive and decreased arousal.1 And of course, a less than appealing sex life can put a strain on your relationship. But don’t despair! There are ways to keep vaginal dryness from negatively impacting your love life.
Why does vaginal dryness happen?
Hormones like estrogen and progesterone help keep the tissues of the vagina lubricated. But hormone levels tend to drop at certain points of the menstrual cycle or after having a baby.2 Less estrogen means less natural lubrication that keeps our vaginal tissue healthy.3 Other reasons for dryness include:
- Although vaginal dryness can happen at any age, it commonly occurs in women during or after menopause, affecting about half of women between 51 and 60 years.It’s during menopause when the vaginal wall becomes thinner, drier and less elastic, making it more apt to tear.3
- Some medications. Certain forms of birth control or cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can lower estrogen and cause dryness.4
- Health problems. Autoimmune disorders like Sjogren’s Syndrome, skin conditions, depression and extreme stress can be the cause.5
- Not getting aroused. If you’re not feeling it between the sheets, or you’re just not getting enough stimulation, there’s a good chance your body won’t cooperate.
What can I do about it?
Vaginal dryness is a common condition, and it’s important to treat it. If left untreated, vaginal dryness can only get worse, causing sores or cracks in the vaginal wall and increasing your chance of getting an infection.1,4 Finding out the cause by making an appointment with your gynecologist can help you figure out what to do next. Here are some options they may ask you to consider:
Use lube. If you’re dealing with mild discomfort during sex, water-based lubricants or vaginal moisturizers can help.
Local estrogen treatments. For more severe dryness, especially among menopausal women, your doctor may discuss the possibility of using local estrogen medicines, which may help increase moisture and sensation.6
Do pelvic floor exercises. Strengthen your kegel muscles, which helps strengthen your pelvic muscles and increases blood flow to the vagina.
Change up your sex routine. If you feel your vaginal dryness is getting in the way of having sex with your partner, talk with your partner about what’s not working and what you need to feel sexually stimulated. Getting sufficient stimulation can increase blood flow to the vagina and help with lubrication.
Remember, if you have gynecological health issues, don’t ignore them. Talk with your doctor to learn about potential treatment options.
- Seehusen DA, Baird DC, Bode DV. Dyspareunia in women. Am Fam Physician. 2014;90(7):465-470.
- Mac Bride MB, Rodes DJ, Shuster LT. Vulvovaginal atrophy. Mayo Clin Proc. 2010;85(1):97-94.
- Cleveland Clinic. Hormone Therapy. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/15245-hormone-therapy. Accessed March 21, 2018.
- Mayo Clinic. Vaginal atrophy. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vaginal-atrophy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352288?p=1. Accessed March 22, 2018.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. When Sex Is Painful. FAQ. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/When-Sex-Is-Painful. Published September 2017. Accessed March 22, 2018.
- Office on Women’s health, US Department of Health and Human Services. Menopause and sexuality. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-and-sexuality. Accessed March 21, 2018.