Vaginal dryness, reduced elasticity and atrophy can cause discomfort and pain, especially during sex and other physical activities. It is a common complaint during menopause due to low estrogen but can also occur for a variety of reasons including but not limited to taking birth control pills, antidepressants and/or antihistamines. Breast cancer prevention and treatment medications can also play a role in vaginal dryness as well as certain autoimmune conditions. The result can be a reduction in sexual desire, vaginal itching and irritation as well as an increase in vaginal and urinary tract infections. The good news is that there are many viable treatment options available. Here are the Top V.
i. Lubricants and moisturizers (water based and oil based) are widely available, over the counter and come in many different varieties. All natural/organic options are preferable because harsh chemicals such as preservatives, parabens and fragrances, especially in sensitive areas, can lead to irritation. Also, remember that oil-based lubricants can also moisturize the area but they are NOT compatible with condoms.
ii. Topical/local estrogen therapy is used in the vulva (outside tissues) vagina (inside tissues). By using the estrogen locally, the potential systemic side effects are significantly reduced. These creams or vaginal suppositories are used once to twice a week to improve vaginal elasticity and natural moisture.
iii. Avoid vulvovaginal irritants such as moisturizers, creams and lubricants that contain preservatives and fragrances. These can be especially irritating to your intimate parts. Using these synthetic substances can make the vulva and vagina feel even more dry and uncomfortable.
Iv. Phytoestrogen supplements are available at most health stores and pharmacies. These supplements contain a variety of ingredients such as soy, red clover, black cohash and others. They can be found naturally in foods as well --sweet potato/yams, soy, flaxseed and berries. Some studies and anecdotal reports show that they can improve the vaginal milieu making for a happier vagina.
v. Sex. Good ole fashion regular sex is very helpful. Think of the vagina as a muscle; the more exercise and use it gets the more enjoyable it will be and without the next day soreness. Sex can be with a partner, self or toy. The bottom line, sex should be a source of pleasure and not pain.
Voilà does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and is not a medical provider. For more information about vaginal dryness, contact your doctor.