Vaginal dryness. Though it’s not often talked about, approximately 1 in 3 women experience vaginal dryness during the menopause transition, and at least 50% of post menopausal women experience it. In this article we’ll discuss symptoms, causes and treatment and management of vaginal dryness.
What is Vaginal Dryness?
It is exactly as it sounds. It is commonly caused by a natural decrease in hormone levels as one approaches menopause or enters into the post-menopausal phase of her life. Vaginal dryness is a hallmark sign of atrophic vaginitis or vaginal atrophy. This results in the tissues becoming thinner and more easily irritated, due to the natural decline in our body’s estrogen levels as we age. Most women experience pain due to the dryness which leads to further itching and chafing, but more importantly, painful intercourse, known as dyspareunia.
Signs & Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness:
– Pain or discomfort during penetrative sexual intercourse
– Light bleeding after intercourse
– Soreness, itching, or burning of the vagina
– Mild vaginal discharge
Mild vaginal dryness is often tied to menopause, it can also be caused by estrogen levels declining after childbirth, curing cancer treatment, while breastfeeding and with anti-estrogen drugs. Seasonal challenges such as allergies and the use of medications, depression caused by seasonal affective disorder and the use of anti-estrogen drugs can also lead to vaginal dryness. An autoimmune disease called Sjögren syndrome can cause dry eyes, vagina and mouth. It often times accompanies other immune system disorders such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.
Although it is common to notice vaginal dryness, especially during intercourse, it is noticeable to most females when putting on their underwear. This is caused by the lack of moisture, which can irritate the external female genital area called the vulva. This can easily be felt when putting on underwear or a pair of pants. Others also experience an increase in urinary tract infections or urinary frequency accompanied by vaginal dryness. When these symptoms are all present during menopause, OB-GYNS calls it “genitourinary syndrome.”
Thankfully, there are natural solutions to keep your vagina lubricated and moist, in the right way!
Vaginal Dryness Solutions:
- Vaginal Moisturizers: These help to add moisture around and inside the vagina. Some are designed to be used internally, helping to build up vaginal tissue, others are meant to be applied externally.
- Lubricants: Also known as “painful sex be gone” gel! Lube helps to reduce friction, lessening one’s risk of injury during sex and making it less likely for a condom to break off if you are using one. Call it a sex gel, but this magical lubricant is also helping to increase your protection again sexually transmitted diseases including HIV
- Hormonal Treatments: This would be a conversation to have with your doctor, but it is an option. This would include the use of estrogen creams and tablets that are inserted a few times per week or vaginal rings that are placed inside the vagina and release a low dose of estrogen.
- Sexual Activity: Regular sexual activity may actually encourage vaginal tissue to retain elasticity, but if intercourse is painful, one of the treatments above should be used to avoid discomfort.
- Stay Hydrated: This one sounds almost too easy. Our bodies are made of mostly water, so if we’re dehydrated, we’re going to be dry. Keep your water intake high, eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables and limit your intake of coffee and alcohol.
While it may be an uncomfortable topic to bring up with your doctor or health care provider, vaginal dryness is one of the more common symptoms of the menopause transition, and very common post-menopause. If you are experiencing any of these uncomfortable symptoms, you are not alone and thankfully, there are many treatment options to address and manage vaginal dryness so it has less impact on your life (and your sex life!)
By Lindsay Mustard. Lindsay is a Holistic Nutritionist, Osteopathic Natural Practitioner and firefighter-in-training with a burning passion for health and fitness. In her osteopathic practice, Lindsay works with clients to craft a unique plan that is tailored to their specific health goals. Her nutritional practice was built around a whole food and supplement approach.