Menopause and vaginal itching can sometimes go hand in hand. (Along with other uncomfortable symptoms like dryness, burning, and more.) But while itching may be a common symptom, it's not one that you have to live with.
Turns out, the question of how to treat vaginal itching during menopause has a number of helpful answers – and most of them involve simple, at-home measures that can be incorporated into your daily routine.
Here are several expert-recommended steps you can take to ease the itch (or even keep it from developing in the first place) and feel more comfortable.
Why Does Menopause Cause Vaginal Itching?
Vaginal itching during menopause can be the result of hormonal changes. Declining levels of estrogen cause the vaginal tissue to become drier and thinner, which can lead to itching along with other symptoms such as burning, painful sex, and an increased risk for urinary tract infections.1
Menopause can lead to changes to the vagina's pH levels and throw off the balance of bacteria in the vaginal microbiome, too. These things, too, can increase itching as well as raise the risk for uncomfortable infections, like bacterial vaginosis.2
How to Treat Vaginal Itching Due to Menopause
Declining estrogen levels are a normal part of menopause. But uncomfortable side effects like itching don't have to be a part of the experience. "It's important to get to the root cause of the itching; some of the more common causes include infections, hormonal changes, and external irritants and even skin conditions," explains Dr. Alyssa Dweck, Bonafide Chief Medical Officer. "Once the cause is established and managed, itching can be addressed both preventively and therapeutically with the help of your healthcare provider."
When showering or bathing, gently wash your vulva (the external area of the female genitals) with warm water and a mild, unscented soap. Stronger products or those with added scents aren't necessary. "Oftentimes, strong fragrances, dyes and chemicals can irritate the vulva and vagina, as well as potentially cause a disruption of the vaginal pH, for those sensitive to these ingredients," Dr. Dweck says.
Douching isn’t necessary since the vagina – the internal canal– is self-cleaning. In fact, women who douche once a week are five times more likely to develop infections like bacterial vaginosis compared to those who don't douche.3 Douching can alter the vaginal pH by disrupting the balance of good bacteria (lactobacilli) and other bacteria in the vagina," says Dr. Dweck. "When lactobacilli levels decline, the vaginal pH can rise and symptoms such as itching, and discharge can occur."
Use a Vaginal Moisturizer and Lubricant
Drier vaginal tissue is more prone to irritation and related symptoms, like itching or burning. Using a vaginal moisturizer regularly and lubricant during intimacy can help keep vaginal tissues better hydrated and reduce the risk for infection, as well as make sex more comfortable, Dr. Dweck explains.
You should use a vaginal moisturizer consistently to reap the biggest benefits. "A vaginal moisturizer is best used on a regular basis, indefinitely to maintain the moisture and elasticity of tissues," Dr. Dweck says. A hyaluronic acid-based vaginal insert, like Revaree®, can help maintain vaginal moisture and minimize symptoms of dryness, itching, irritation, and painful sex when used regularly and as directed.
If you're sexually active, apply a vaginal lubricant right before sex. "I recommend avoiding the use of lubricants containing harsh chemicals, fragrances and flavors, in this case," says Dr. Dweck. "Water and silicone-based lubricants are suggested for those who rely on condoms for pregnancy protection as well as sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention."
Steer Clear of Irritants
Certain personal care products can irritate the vagina and make itching and related symptoms worse.4 "Strong fragrances, dyes and harsh chemicals commonly found in household items such as laundry detergents and fabric softeners, intimate washes, toilet paper, pads or pantyliners might act as chemical irritants in those who are sensitive," according to Dr. Dweck.
Wear Loose, Breathable Clothing
Choose underwear and pants that fit comfortably and are made of breathable materials such as cotton. Synthetic fabrics and tight-fitting bottoms can trap moisture and irritate the vagina, which may contribute to itching.5
Consider a Probiotic
The above lifestyle practices and tips all play an important role in maintaining a healthy vaginal pH and microbiome to stave off menopause-related symptoms such as dryness, irritation, itching, or discharge.6
But if you struggle with recurring vaginal infections or irritation, consider asking your healthcare provider about the possible benefits of using a probiotic containing Lactobacillus strains.7 "A probiotic geared towards supporting vaginal health can help to optimize the vaginal microbiome and maintain the delicate balance between good and bad bacteria," says Dr. Dweck.
Bonafide's Solution for a Balanced Vaginal Microbiome
ClairveeTM is a hormone-free vaginal probiotic that specifically supports vaginal health for everyday comfort and confidence.*
When to See Your Healthcare Provider for Vaginal Itching
Vaginal itching may be a common menopause symptom, but it isn't one that you have to live with. "Vaginal itching that is accompanied by unusual discharge, odor, bleeding or lesions should be evaluated by a woman’s healthcare provider," Dr. Dweck says. "Similarly, recurrent, persistent, or worsening vaginal itching should also be evaluated."