The vagina is a truly magnificent part of the body. Not only can it bring life into this world and then bounce back to its original shape, but it also is a self-cleaning organ. The vagina is lined with a thin layer of moisture that keeps the vaginal pH steady, preventing irritation/infection, and allowing sperm to become fertilized during procreative sex. This moisture is caused by estrogen, one of the female sex hormones. When estrogen levels decrease, the moisture in the vagina decreases as well, causing vaginal dryness.
What is vaginal dryness?
Vaginal dryness isn’t necessarily an unsafe condition, but it can be uncomfortable. Vaginal dryness can cause burning or itching, discomfort, as well as pain during or after intercourse. It can also cause bleeding after intercourse. Although vaginal dryness is a normal, natural part of life, pain during or after sex does not need to be. There are many ways to treat vaginal dryness and ensure you have a fun, pleasurable sex life. Vaginal dryness can also cause urinary tract infections.
How do hormones affect our vagina?
Estrogen levels lower naturally as we age, especially during menopause. One in three women experiences vaginal dryness as part of their menopause symptoms. Dropping estrogen levels can also be caused by childbirth, breastfeeding, excessive stress, rigorous exercise, some medication, as well as some cancer treatments. If you have a vagina, you will experience vaginal dryness at some point. It’s pretty common. If you do experience vaginal dryness and it is causing you UTIs, discomfort, or pain during sex, even a loss of interest in sex, talk to your doctor and find a treatment.
What type of lubricant should I use?
Over-the-counter lubricant can be an easy way to treat vaginal dryness during penis-in-vagina sex, or when inserting toys or fingers into the vagina. Water-based lubricant works best, as it is safe to use with condoms and all types of sex toys. Be sure to get a fragrance-free lubricant so you don’t cause any irritation to the vagina. Lube can be found at any grocery store or drug store, is fairly inexpensive, and can be used in the moment to treat vaginal dryness and make intercourse more pleasurable.
Other treatments for vaginal dryness
If you are wanting a long-term treatment for vaginal dryness, or are having issues outside of discomfort during sex, you can take estrogen to increase the moisture your vagina is naturally producing. You can take an estrogen pill that will also help treat any other menopausal symptoms, insert a cream into the vagina, or use an estrogen ring, also inserted into the vagina. Your doctor inserts the ring into the vagina, and it releases estrogen into the body. Similar to the ring birth control, it needs to be replaced every three weeks. The cream is also inserted once or twice a week, then can be decreased over time and used as needed.
Although vaginal dryness is a normal, natural part of aging or experiencing life, being in pain is not. Use lubricant or talk to your doctor to find a treatment that makes you and your body feel good.