Vaginal dryness can affect any woman, however after the menopause it is very common, affecting over half of post-menopausal women aged between 51 and 60. However, around 17% of women aged 18-50 experience problems with vaginal dryness during sex, even before the menopause takes place.
Causes of vaginal dryness range from physiological factors, such as hormonal changes or medication side effects, to emotional and psychological issues, like a lack of desire or even anxiety.
Vaginal dryness is common symptom of menopause and close to one out of every three women deals with it while going through “the change.” It becomes even more common afterward. It also makes the vagina thinner and less elastic. This is called vaginal atrophy.
Estrogen levels can also drop because of:
– Childbirth and breastfeeding
– Radiation or chemotherapy treatment for cancer
– Surgical removal of the ovaries
– Anti-estrogen medications used to treat uterine fibroids or endometriosis
Other causes of vaginal dryness include:
– Sjögren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disorder that attacks cells in the body that produce moisture)
– Allergy and cold medications
– Certain antidepressants
– Not enough foreplay before sex
No matter what the cause, vaginal dryness can be extremely uncomfortable. It can lead to itching, burning, and painful intercourse.
What to do next
Recognizing that vaginal dryness is normal and common is the first step to helping yourself. The next is to talk to your doctor, who can recommend a treatment to suit you.
– Local estrogen – this is available in the form of small tablets inserted into the vagina with an applicator, vaginal rings or Vaginal dryness can respond well to local estrogen treatments, they can also help greatly with discomfort and pain during sex, correct the vaginal pH and regulate bacteria. Unlike conventional forms of HRT, the effects are local therefore the risks are reduced
– Avoid perfumed soaps
– Use creams to treat skin irritation
– Lubricants and moisturisers can be useful, particularly for women who are not suited to estrogen
– Take more time during sexual intercourse giving the Bartholins gland time to produce the maximum amount of lubrication before intercourse