While it may not be the top of every woman’s conversation list, vaginal dryness is a common problem that many women have to deal with at some stage in their lives.
Vaginal dryness is more common in women during and after menopause due to a decrease in the female hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen helps keep the lining of the vagina lubricated, moist and elastic. When oestrogen levels drop, the vagina becomes less lubricated resulting in dryness. However, vaginal dryness does affect younger women too.
Other causes of vaginal dryness due to changes in hormone levels include: breastfeeding, taking contraceptive pills or antidepressants, having a hysterectomy, or undergoing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.
Vaginal dryness can also be caused by using perfumed products in and around your vagina, douching (washing or cleaning out the inside of the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids), not being aroused during sexual intercourse or having an underlying medical condition such as diabetes or Sjogren’s syndrome.
However, if you notice any changes in your vaginal health, it’s worth a trip to your doctor for advice and to rule out any other causes.
How do you know if you have vaginal dryness?
- pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse
- bleeding or spotting after sex
- feeling sore or itchy in or around your vagina
- needing to wee more than usual
- recurring urinary tract infections
- a change in the appearance of your vagina (thinner vaginal lips).
Vaginal dryness can be uncomfortable and impact on your daily life and sex life if not treated properly.
Here are our top tips for dealing with vaginal dryness:
- Use non-soap cleanses or mild soaps to wash your external genital area (the vulva) – you don’t need to clean inside your vagina as it’s self-cleaning. Washing inside your vagina alters the normal vaginal flora and may force bacteria higher into the genital tract, which may lead to other problems such as infection.
- Avoid perfumed soaps, shampoos, antiseptics, bubble bath and other products that may irritate or dry the skin.
- Use water-based lubricants during sex.
- Extend the amount of sexual foreplay to help you feel more aroused.
- If required, only use special vaginal creams, not any other moisturisers or lotions.
- If dryness is related to menopause, talk to your doctor about available hormone treatments such as vaginal oestrogen cream.
If you notice a change in your vaginal health, have any questions or concerns about vaginal dryness, your symptoms are getting worse or it’s affecting your daily life, please consult your healthcare provider as it may be a sign of something more serious.