It seems like everyone is finally talking about vaginal dryness and honestly, it’s about time. The symptoms often take women by surprise during the menopausal transition and unlike hot flashes, which will eventually subside, vaginal changes can be more chronic and progressive. Burning, itching, irritation, dryness and pain during intimacy are all common concerns. The good news ladies? It’s totally manageable. There are ways to treat vaginal dryness.
What causes vaginal dryness? Lower estrogen levels that occur during menopause change the vagina on a cellular level. Less estrogen means less blood flow; transforming the typical lush, elastic vaginal tissue into something thinner, more delicate and less lubricated. In fact, this type of change occurs to some degree in other instances too; during lactation, while taking birth control pills and other medications, such as those used in breast cancer treatment and prevention, as well as in smokers, and in those who have had their ovaries removed.
So Why is Vaginal Dryness Such a Big Deal?
First, some women complain of an awareness of their vaginas, and not in a good way. Vaginal dryness can predispose women to vaginal infection and subsequent odor. In some cases women describe intercourse as feeling like “sandpaper” or a “razor blade”. Ouch! This makes penetration next to impossible.
How to Treat Vaginal Dryness.
First, invest in a fabulous “vaginal” moisturizer. Commit to using it regularly and indefinitely. After all, would you skip a day of your daily facial care regimen? I recommend a hyaluronic acid-based product. Hyaluronic acid is already widely used in the dermatology and cosmetic worlds. It is found naturally in the body and is able to retain 1000 times its weight in moisture.
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Second, you may want to consider using a lubricant for vaginal dryness during intimacy. Water, silicone and oil-based products are abundant. Some are hypoallergenic or organic for the super sensitive. Remember, less is more when considering ingredients since many women become irritated from added chemicals.
Third, be mindful of feminine hygiene and bath products. Harsh fragrances might prompt irritation in the delicate genital area. Douches are generally frowned upon since vaginal pH can be disrupted. It’s important to keep in mind that the vagina has natural mechanisms to keep itself clean and pH balanced; vigorous scrubbing is just not needed.
Hormone replacement therapy is another option that can relieve vaginal dryness from menopause. However, this type of treatment is not without potential risks, and you should speak with your gynecologist to see if this or other prescription options might be appropriate. †
Finally, whether partnered or solo, regular vaginal stimulation enhances blood flow and maintains a healthy vagina. As the saying goes, “use it or lose it!”
†Always check in with your health care provider to optimize health and manage medications.