There are many factors in a person's life that can throw the body’s hormone balance off its game. This imbalance has a direct impact on the vagina, leading to vaginal dryness - that uncomfortable and often painful condition occurring when the vagina is not well lubricated.
The good news is that there are a number of remedies to help you recover from it as well as ways you can avoid it.
But before we dive into all that, it’s important to set the record straight: Vaginal dryness is not something to be embarrassed about. It’s not an indicator of poor hygiene. It’s a common medical issue that can be caused by a number of medical or hormonal factors.
Leading Common Cause of Vaginal Dryness
The main cause behind vaginal dryness is menopause - the time period 12 months after a person’s last menstrual period. Many changes happen to the body during menopause, among them changing levels of estrogen that cause the vagina walls to get thinner and drier.
According to a longitudinal study on the factors associated with developing vaginal dryness symptoms in women transitioning through menopause, 19.4% of women aged 42-53 years old reported symptoms of vaginal dryness. Meanwhile, this number increased to 34% in women aged 57-69 years old. This shows that vaginal dryness is more prevalent and associated with advanced menopausal stage.
Other Cause of Vaginal Dryness
Besides menopause, there are several other contributors to vaginal dryness, such as:
- Childbirth and breastfeeding: Vaginal dryness is quite common postpartum. In a 2018 study, 43% of participants reported lack of vaginal lubrication 6 months postpartum. The study participants who were breastfeeding reported even more symptoms associated with vaginal dryness.
- Certain medications: Vaginal dryness can also be a side effect of certain medications such as antidepressants, oral contraceptives, allergy, blood pressure, and heart medications.
- Chemotherapy and radiation: Cancer treatment may affect the ovaries, causing them to produce lower levels of the estrogen hormone. As a result, the vaginal lubrication also decreases, leading to vaginal dryness.
- Hysterectomies: This refers to the surgical removal of the uterus (womb). A 2015 rewiew study on the effects of hysterectomy on women’s sexual function showed that while some researchers reported that vaginal dryness decreases after hysterectomy, others reported the opposite - hysterectomy increases vaginal dryness.
All these factors have one thing in common: changing hormonal levels. Even slight changes in hormone levels may affect blood flow to the vaginal walls. In turn, this can lead to dryness down there.
There are also other factors, unrelated to hormonal changes, that may cause vaginal dryness. For instance, people suffering from the autoimmune disease such as Sjogren’s Syndrome may experience vaginal dryness. Also, douching is another common vaginal dryness causing factor that disrupts the natural vaginal pH balance by introducing chemicals and irritants in your vagina. Certain tampons and condoms may also cause vaginal dryness.
Top Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness
Vaginal dryness is associated with the symptoms listed below. So if you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider and take steps to relieve the discomfort (we will get more into that as well).
1. Vaginal irritation
Vaginal irritation involves a number of sub-symptoms, such as feeling sore or itchy in and around your vagina. You may also experience a rash in the affected area. This is one of the first and most common symptoms of vaginal dryness. The lack of moisture is sure to wreak havoc on your pH balance and irritate your vagina.
In such cases, hydrating, hypoallergenic, and pH balancing products are very important to help you get back to normal. And of course, you should avoid products that contain harsh chemicals such as glycerin and paraben.
2. Painful sex
If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness, no matter the amount of foreplay or how aroused you may feel, things down there will continue to be dry. So penetrative sex will undoubtly be painful.
Lube is your new best friend in this case (and not only)! Just make sure you’re using a lube formula that won’t make your symptoms worse. This means that you should opt for 100% natural and pH balanced lube formulation.
3. Bleeding following sexual intercourse
Lots of friction during penetrative sex can sometimes lead to bleeding. If no matter the amount of lube you use this problem persists, then it may be time to consider other forms of pleasure that do not include vaginal penetration.
4. Lower sex drive
Another common symptom of vaginal dryness is a lower sex drive. After all, it’s difficult to be in the mood when you are experiencing pain and discomfort.
But if you take the necessary steps to properly moisturize and balance the pH environment down there, the desire will surely follow suit. Plus, you can also help your libido by learning how to foster desire in the bedroom or introducing some toys.
5. Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Recurrent UTIs are another accompanying symptom of vaginal dryness. A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract, bladder, or urethra that happens when harmful bacteria enter the urinary tract. These infections bring forth another range of symptoms such as abdominal pain and mild fever.
While UTIs are typically treated with antibiotics, you can also speed along the healing process by maintaining proper vaginal hygiene and using products that contain anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties.
6. Burning when you pee
Low levels of estrogen can lead to inflammation. In turn, the inflammation may cause discomfort when you pee. This is described as a burning or stinging sensation.
Similar as with the above symptoms, using natural, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal products can help ease the burning sensation
7. Having to pee more often than usual
Frequent peeing can be related to the urinary tract infections or directly to the hormonal imbalance that leads to vaginal dryness. As such, it’s a usual symptom of it. Even though you might not really have to pee, you may still feel the need to go to the bathroom.
Managing the underlying condition - vaginal dryness - will help you find relief from this symptom.
8. Discomfort throughout the day
In many cases, vaginal dryness does not cause pain and discomfort only during intercourse or when you pee. Rather, it’s an uncomfortable feeling that accompanies you throughout the day.
So proper hydration of the vagina and all the above tips on how to manage the different symptoms of vaginal dryness will help you get rid of it.
9. Vaginal discharge changes
Vaginal discharge is how the body gets rid of harmful bacteria and protects the vagina against infections. As with many other bodily functions, your discharge is highly susceptible to hormonal changes.
There are two types of changes one can expect to experience due to vaginal dryness. One, given the lack of moisture, you can expect to have less discharge, which further perpetuates the dryness. And secondly, hormonal imbalance can lead to changes in the color of your vaginal discharge.
As you focus on regulating your hormonal balance, your discharge related to vaginal dryness will also go back to normal - even though normal varies from person to person.
10. Emotional distress
Did you know that over 50% of women do not report the symptoms of vaginal dryness to their health care provider? This is a surprising statistic.
Since many women still do not feel comfortable reporting vaginal dryness to their doctor, they go through it in silence. This often is due to shame to not only share it with the doctor, but at times, also with their partners.
How Lubricants and Moisturizers Can Help
Lubricants and moisturizers can provide relief from the symptoms of vaginal dryness by restoring your vaginal pH balance and hydration level. That is, when you choose the right ones.
Water-based Lube - Aloe Vera Lube
Water-based lubes mimic the body’s natural fluids. Besides feeling more natural, these types of lube add an extra layer of hydration to your private parts - which is much needed when you are experiencing vaginal dryness. Add in that the moisturizing and soothing effects of Aloe Vera, and this becomes your best combination in a lube that can help you ease the symptoms of vaginal dryness.
Personal wipes are easy to use whenever you need to freshen up during the day. Find the right wipes’ formula and you will have in your hands the perfect on-the-go pH balancing wipes. Also you should look for wipes that are alcohol and fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, safe, and infused with anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. This perfect combination will aid your vaginal dryness healing process and provide you with relief from its uncomfortable symptoms.
By definition, vegan means to only use natural, plant-based, and non-synthetic ingredients. This makes vegan condoms a great choice for sensitive skin, which is the case of intimate skin with vaginal dryness symptoms.
Condoms with Hyaluronic Acid
You might be thinking that something with Acid in its name shouldn’t be anywhere near your vagina. That’s not the case when it comes to Hyaluronic Acid. Hyaluronic Acid is a known moisturizer due to its ability to bind water to the skin, preventing it from evaporating quickly. This is one of the reasons that you should want to see this ingredient on the label of your condoms.
Things You Can Do to Avoid Vaginal Dryness
In some cases, such as during menopause or hormonal changes, vaginal dryness can be a natural side effect. So your best course is to focus on products that can help you through it.
However, in some other cases, vaginal dryness is totally avoidable. The regular use of hydrating lubricants, condoms, and wipes will help you maintain a healthy vaginal environment. Remember to always check these products’ formulas and look for words such as aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, vegan, and water-based.
You should apply the same product selection criteria when it comes to every product that comes in contact with your intimate areas. And stay away from practices such as douching that introduce strong perfumes and chemicals into your vagina. These products also strip the skin from its natural pH balance.