Vagnal dryness is unfortunately a very common symptom in the transition to menopause. In fact, some studies report that 40-60% of women will experience this uncomfortable symptom.
Menopause can reduce the body’s production of the hormone oestrogen, which is important for maintaining the moisture and elasticity of the vagina. When oestrogen levels are lowered, the dryness it causes can make sexual intercourse uncomfortable or painful.
Unlike hot flushes and cramps, vaginal dryness doesn’t improve with time and may be a long term problem unless treated effectively.
What is vaginal dryness?
Veginal dryness, or the medical term atrophic vaginitis, is defined as a lack of adequate moisture in the vaginal area. The body naturally lubricates the vaginal walls with a thin layer of moisture, a clear fluid excreted through the walls of the blood vessels around the vagina. When sexually aroused, a woman’s blood vessels receive more blood flow, stimulating the secretion of fluids and increasing vaginal lubrication.
When menopause strikes, hormonal changes that occur in the body can disrupt this process, both during sex and in daily life. Reduced oestrogen levels can cause the vulva and vaginal tissues to become thinner, and what was once an acidic environment can quickly become more alkaline, increasing irritation and the likelihood of vaginal infections.
Symptoms of vaginal dryness can range in severity, from mild and irritating to significantly life hindering. Common symptoms can include:
- Light bleeding during sex,
- Painful intercourse,
- General discomfort,
- Urinary frequency,
- Discomfort when wearing pants, and
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take towards managing vaginal dryness, and there are varying degrees of treatment options available, both hormonal and nonhormonal.
Treating vaginal dryness caused by menopause
When it comes to treating any symptom of menopause, it’s recommended that you start with the least invasive methods first.
Techniques you can try to self-manage vaginal dryness include the following.
Vaginal lubricants work by reducing friction associated with thin, dry genital tissue. They come in liquid or gel form, and are applied to the vulva and vagina just before sex. Lubricants are immediate-acting, providing temporary relief from dryness without absorbing into the skin. They are particularly appropriate for women who experience discomfort during sex only. Look for water-based lubricants, which have the advantage of being non-staining.
2. Natural oils
Natural oils, such as vitamin E, grapeseed, sweet almond oil, or coconut oil, gently soothe the vaginal walls when applied topically. Natural oils can be applied following a bath or sexual intercourse, and can help to restore natural balance and rehydrate the vaginal walls.
3. More fluids
For a well-hydrated vagina, try drinking at least ten glasses of water each day, and top up with juices; specifically pineapple, lemon, and orange juice. These fruit saps contain a lot of enzymes, as well as vitamin C, to reduce subtle infections promoting poor vaginal discharge.
4. Avoiding harsh soap
If you are experiencing even mild irritation or discomfort, the first thing you should do is stop using soap on the inner parts of your vulva – clean water is perfectly adequate for washing down there. Also, only use unscented toilet paper, wash your underwear in detergents free of dyes or perfumes, and stop using fabric softeners, bubble bath, and products that use petroleum jelly or mineral oil. This will help to restore the natural pH balance in the vaginal region.