As a pelvic floor trainer, I’m used to women talking openly with me about vaginal health, and I often hear things like, “This is so embarrassing, I haven’t told anyone else.” Ladies, you should never be embarrassed to talk about any issues you’re having, and once you open up you’ll realize how many other women are experiencing the exact same thing. If we open up the conversation about our vaginal wellness, we’ll all learn options for reducing or eliminating issues and symptoms. One of the many issues I hear about often is vaginal dryness. It impacts one in five women; during and after menopause that number skyrockets to half of all women. It’s a good idea to know what causes this issue, what the symptoms are, and what you can do about it, in case you suddenly find yourself dryer than the Sahara.
What symptoms will I notice?
One common symptom of vaginal dryness is painful intercourse, which can also stem from other issues, including pelvic floor problems. If the cause is vaginal dryness, using lube will usually alleviate this pain. Oftentimes women who experience painful intercourse end up trying to avoid sex, which can have a negative impact on their relationship. Some women with vaginal dryness experience urinary tract infections (UTIs) that are frequent or will not go away. Others experience itching, burning, discomfort in the vagina, chaffing or tearing of the inner labia, and light bleeding after intercourse.
The most common cause is a drop in estrogen levels, but there are many other reasons why you might be experiencing vaginal dryness. Estrogen is the main female sex hormone, produced primarily in the ovaries, and it helps regulate moisture in the vagina and keep tissues healthy and elastic. Estrogen levels drop during pregnancy and breastfeeding, from cancer treatments or ovary removal, with certain immune disorders, and during and after menopause. When not warned by a doctor, many new moms are shocked to encounter vaginal dryness.
Birth control pills may also cause vaginal dryness by throwing off a woman’s estrogen/progestin balance. Certain medications can also leave you dry, including some antihistamines (they decrease mucus production in cells throughout the body, including the vagina), antidepressants, and asthma medications. If you think your vaginal dryness might be from your medication, talk to your doctor and look for an alternative (but don’t stop taking it or switch on your own). Douching, dehydration, irritants (such as soaps, perfumes, and hygiene products), and insufficient arousal can also cause vaginal dryness for some women. Interestingly, low libido and other sexual problems can lead to vaginal dryness; conversely, vaginal dryness can lead to low libido. Even stress and anxiety affect our sexual desire and may lead to vaginal dryness. Most of the moms I work with are chronically stressed, and if you’re a mom you know that while it’s the most rewarding job in the world, it can also be stressful. Taking care of yourself and reducing stress with proven methods such as exercise, meditation, or prayer is essential for your mental and physical well-being.
For pain-free intercourse with vaginal dryness, most women need the help of a lubricant. A personal lubricant is designed to be used for sexual activities to make them more pleasurable. There are so many on the market, but it’s important to note that if you use condoms you should avoid any lubricant that contains oil, which can break the condom. In addition to lubrication for intercourse, some women notice an improvement after moisturizing their vagina a few times a week. Vaginal moisturizers are designed to be applied just as a lotion or cream elsewhere on the body would be. If you constantly feel dry, you might try a moisturizer in addition to lube. When using any beauty or hygiene product on or in my body, I prefer non-toxic options. There are tons to choose from, but here’s a list of my favorites:
• Coconut oil
• Good Clean Love lubricant
• Sustain lubricant
• Aloe Cadabra lubricant
• Vmagic moisturizer
• Julva moisturizer