Normally, the walls of the vagina stay lubricated with a thin layer of clear fluid, however there are many things that can cause the lining to become dry and irritated. Insufficient lubrication — or vaginal dryness — can cause mild to significant pain (dyspareunia, which is a type of sexual pain disorder) and interfere with sexual pleasure.
Vaginal dryness is nothing to be embarrassed about. It affects many women, especially as they age. If vaginal dryness begins to affect your lifestyle, sex life and/or relationship with your partner; consider making an appointment with your physician. If you’re not sure you need to make an appointment, read on for these signs of vaginal dryness and potential treatments.
What causes dryness?
There are several things that can affect a woman’s ability to lubricate. Reduced estrogen levels are the main cause of vaginal dryness. Estrogen helps keep vaginal tissue healthy by maintaining normal vaginal lubrication, tissue elasticity and acidity. These factors create a natural defense against vaginal infections, but when your estrogen levels decrease, so does this natural defense, leading to a thinner, less elastic and more fragile vaginal lining and an increased risk of infections.
Medical conditions, significant life events, and daily habits such as pregnancy, lactation, menopause, aging, immune disorders, medical conditions, chemotherapy, sexually transmitted infections, smoking cigarettes, and douching will reduce lubrication and may cause the vagina to feel dry and irritated.
Certain medications can also cause dryness, including many common drugs for allergies, cardiovascular, psychiatric, and other medical conditions. Oral contraceptives and irritation from contraceptive creams and foams can also cause dryness, as can fear and anxiety about sexual intimacy. Vaginal dryness may also result from insufficient foreplay and arousal. In many cases, women need lots of sexual stimulation for arousal. The more aroused we are, the more lubrication, which reduces dryness and friction, helping to make sexual intercourse more pleasure.
Vaginal dryness may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms such as:
- Itching or stinging around the vaginal opening
- Pain with intercourse
- Light bleeding with intercourse
- Increased urinary frequency or urgency
- Recurrent urinary tract infections
- Involuntary contractions of the pelvic floor muscles
What gets me wet?
Vaginal lubricants can support and/or naturally restore your own vaginal moisture. Whether a woman has an issue or not with lubrication, it’s always a good idea to keep lubrication nearby. The more the vagina is lubricated, the less likely the lining of the vagina will have excessive ripping and tearing from intercourse. Rips and tears in the vagina help create a portal of entry for bacteria and other infections. Keep in mind, though, that while the use of a lubricant can make sexual intercourse less painful, it does not address the underlying cause of vaginal dryness itself. Here are a few suggestions to increase your moisture below.
- Lubricants. Water-based or silicone-based lubricants can help keep your vagina lubricated. Choose products that don’t contain glycerin, which has been linked to yeast infections.
- Moisturizers: These products imitate normal vaginal moisture and relieve dryness for up to three days with a single application. Use these as ongoing protection from the irritation of vaginal dryness. Before using complementary or alternative treatments, such as vitamin therapies or products containing estrogen, talk to your physician first.
- Natural and Organic Lubricants: Cosmetic grade oils such as almond, coconut or olive oils act as lubricants and can be helpful in rejuvenating irritated, dry tissues.
Avoid using these products to treat vaginal dryness because they may dry and irritate your vagina:
- Vinegar, yogurt or other douches
- Hand lotions
- Antibacterial or fragrant soaps
- Bubble baths or bath oils
- Scented or perfumed products
- Flavored lubricants are not generally recommended because they can cause a yeast infection.
- Oil-based lubricants are not meant for vagina use
What can I do?
Just because the vagina’s not wet doesn’t mean she’s not ready for sex! It’s important to note that there’s a difference between arousal and desire. Arousal, which causes lubrication, is physiological and the desire to have sex is psychological. So essentially a woman can have the desire to have sex but not be aroused which means that there may be some type of issue going on that needs to be addressed. In other words, she could want to have sex but her body may not be responding or getting aroused — vice versa she may not desire sex but her body may be aroused. Basically, don’t take it personally if she’s not wet and take this advice.
- Pay attention to your sexual needs. Occasional vaginal dryness during intercourse may mean that you aren’t sufficiently aroused. Make time for foreplay and allow your body to become adequately aroused and lubricated. Communicate with your Beloved about your sexual needs and what turns you on.
- Having intercourse regularly can also help promote better vaginal lubrication.
- Listen to your body. Vaginal dryness may be an indication that something is going on with your body and you need to go to the physician.
- Boost your water intake. Drinking at least ten 8-oz glasses of water a day may help to relieve vaginal dryness.
- Follow a hormone-balancing diet. Your body needs the right nutritional support to make and balance your hormones.
Dr. TaMara loves nothing more than talking about sex! At the age of 13, she told her mother she wanted to be a Sex Therapist! Her passion is deeply rooted in spreading messages about healthy sexuality. Dr. TaMara is a sexologist, sex therapist, educator and motivational speaker with more than 20 years of experience speaking, writing and teaching about sexuality. She travels the country helping individuals embrace and honor their sexuality. Dr. TaMara has published numerous books and articles. She is the owner of L.I.F.E. by Dr. TaMara Griffin Live Inspired Feel Empowered LLC-LIFE Follow her on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, http://www.drtamaragriffin.com or http://www.projectcreatesafe.com.