Vaginal dryness, also known as vaginal atrophy or genitourinary syndrome of menopause, can affect many women around menopause. There is a whole chapter dedicated to vaginal dryness in The New Hot so make sure you check it out.
Dryness makes it sound like a slight inconvenience, atrophy like it’s all shrivelling up, and a ‘syndrome’ amongst other things, implies it’s in the head, which it most definitely is not – the problem is between our legs. The vagina, vulva, bladder and pelvic floor all love oestrogen so when it declines it can, and does, have serious repercussions for many women.
The lack of oestrogen basically makes the vagina and surrounding area weaker, thinner and easily irritated. The bladder becomes more prone to urine infections because bacteria can take hold much easier.
Painful sex and the importance of moisturising your vagina
Vaginal dryness can be particularly unpleasant during sex. It kills the mood and also causes physical pain.
During sexual stimulation, secretions are released from your Bartholin’s glands (i.e., glands that are located on each side of the vaginal opening. If the vaginal area is well supplied with blood, enough fluid is produced. With age, the blood supply decreases and the vaginal walls become thinner. In general, the tissue becomes less “juicy”, which in turn affects the self-cleaning mechanisms of the vagina. The time for the natural lubrication of the vagina becomes longer, and the amount of vaginal discharge decreases. In addition, the vaginal wall becomes more sensitive to mechanical stimuli, therefore more susceptible to bacteria.
Therefore, it’s important to use external moisturisers and lubricants to keep your vaginal dryness in check.
What are the causes?
Vaginal dryness is a bit more complicated than you might think. You can improve it significantly if you tackle some of the external causes one by one and see what the biggest trigger is.
- Hormonal changes (decrease in oestrogen)
- Health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure
- Alcohol consumption
- Hormonal contraception with progestogens (contraceptive patches, injections, etc.)
- Vaginal fungi (candidiasis)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- Bladder infection (cystitis)
- Oophorectomy (the surgical removal of an ovary or ovaries)
- Radiation therapy after cancer.
Sometimes the causes might be more mental than physical.
- Feeling down, underwhelmed or bored
- Lack of sexual interest in your partner
- Lack of sexual excitement (you can always spice it up)
- Problems with your partner
- Sex education related to taboos
- Traumatic experiences, such as sexual abuse
- Low self-esteem, including weight gain
What can be done about vaginal dryness?
First of all, you need to determine whether the cause is psychological, i.e., lack of excitement in your life, too much stress, depression, anxiety. The first step is recognising the things that make everything feel like “too much” – you can meditate and journal about it, but if the distress is too severe you should seek professional help. Psychotherapy and sexual counselling can make a big difference.
In the majority of cases, the causes are physical, which is very normal during menopause. There is a lot you can do about your vaginal dryness and painful intercourse (dyspareunia) if that’s the case.
1. Vaginal moisturisers
If you are suffering from dryness, you might benefit from using a proper intimate wash as vaginal pH changes over the years and you should use a wash that respects your pH. As with the vaginal moisturiser, you can find a natural vegan wash in our range of products.
You can apply the vaginal moisturiser every few days to keep vaginal tissues healthy. It is better to choose one with natural ingredients in order to avoid the nasty chemicals sometimes hidden in some of these products.
MegsMenopause Blossom Balm has been uniquely formulated to gently moisturise and care for the intimate skin areas, whilst reducing dryness and irritation. Blossom Balm Intimate Skin Moisturiser helps keep the vagina moist. It can reduce irritation caused by dryness throughout the day by keeping the local pH balanced while it prevents bad bacteria from growing. It contains rose water, aloe vera and marshmallow root.
2. Vaginal lubricants
The best solution for painful intercourse is using vaginal lubricants. They help restore the balance of the required degree of hydration.
Some women have used massage or baby oil instead of lubricant, but we don’t recommend these because they might irritate your vagina.
Try our water-based Motion Lotion is formulated to provide extra silky lubrication that helps alleviate discomfort. It contains natural ingredients and it’s completely odourless, unlike other lubricants. It’s also fine to use with condoms.
3. Oestrogen creams
Vaginal dryness is often caused by a drop in the levels of oestrogen in your body. Not just because of menopause alone which causes hormonal disbalance, but also the use of contraceptives over a long period of time can mess up with your oestrogen. Oestrogen cream can help, it’s a prescription-only medicine so you need to speak to your GP first. Alternatives include an oestrogen tablet or ring, both of which can help by reinvigorating vaginal tissues.
Bonus points: masturbation
Masturbation has become one of our favourite topics and an overwhelming part of our community and 76% have shared that they are doing it on a regular basis. It’s one of the healthiest and cheapest ways to get the anxiety and troubled sleep under control, but also the additional vaginal discharge helps combat vaginal dryness.
Wands, fingers, vibrators, dildos, bullets and showerheads. We love how open our readers are when it comes to pleasuring themselves. It’s such an important part of self-care.