Our bodies change as we grow older, but we don’t just have to sit back and suffer the effects. Vaginal dryness affects 50–70% of women after menopause. A lack of lubrication is the most common cause and the medical term for the condition is dyspareunia (dis-puh-ROO-nee-uh) or painful intercourse. The condition can be difficult for a woman to deal with and embarrassing to discuss. It needn’t be.
If you haven’t yet gone through menopause, but find you are bothered with this condition, we’d advise a visit to your gynecologist who can check you over thoroughly. A drop in your estrogen levels can also lead to dryness, resulting from
- Childbirth and breastfeeding
- Radiation or chemotherapy treatment for cancer
- Surgical removal of the ovaries
- Anti-estrogen medications used to treat uterine fibroids or endometriosis
For most women, a lack of vaginal moisture will have a significant impact on their sex life and the pleasure they derive from the act. It can also affect your relationship with your partner or spouse. The great news is that sex does not have to hurt and today’s woman is spoilt for choice, with many alternatives to provide the vagina with moisture and restore the joys of intimacy.
Here are eight easy tips to help you solve the problem of vaginal dryness, but first a few things you should avoid that can aggravate vaginal dryness. Avoid using douches, bubble baths, scented soaps, and lotions around the sensitive vaginal area. These will contribute to vaginal dryness.
Natural Choices for Vaginal Dryness
None of the options below may appeal to you if you’re eager to keep things natural. There are easy solutions here too. You can use grapeseed, olive, sweet almond, sunflower, or coconut oil. If dryness is a problem, these oils are great lubricants that can be safely applied in and around your genitals for a more sensual love-making session. Coconut oil is particularly suited. Always select an organic certified oil when possible for this sensitive and highly absorbent part of your body.
1. Water-based sexual lubricants
Brands: Astroglide, Durex, KY and others
How they work: Sexual lubricants reduce friction. Lubricants enhance the experience and eliminate painful chafing and burning. The application of sexual lubricant as a part of foreplay is a simple trick for many women to improve sexual pleasure. Lube may be applied directly to the vagina, clitoris, or penis before penetration.
Some lubricants may affect sperm function, potentially decreasing the chances of a person getting pregnant, so those who are trying to conceive should choose a sperm-friendly lubricant. People hoping to prevent pregnancy and using lubricants can consider spermicides along with other contraceptives.
Not all lubricants are the same. Most lubricants available at a local pharmacy are water-based.
Pros: Water-based lubricants are the safest choice to prevent sexually transmitted infections. They do not break down latex in condoms or sex toys. Water-based lubricants are ideal for those with sensitive skin or those prone to vaginal irritation and s a final plus, water-based lubricants do not leave stains on sheets and are easy to clean in the laundry.
Cons: Water-based lubricants dry out quickly. Rapid drying may require reapplication for longer sexual sessions. For those suffering from chronic vaginal dryness or inadequate natural lubrication during sex, they may be insufficient. Water-based lubricants are not always the best option for postmenopausal women.
2. Silicone-based sexual lubricants
Brands: Platinum Wet is a popular choice. This Paraben and Glycerin free product reduces the risk of chemical irritation. Penchant Premium is another hypoallergic option ideal for those with sensitive skin.
Pros: Silicone-based lubricants stay slippery longer, avoiding the frustration of rapid drying and reapplication messiness. This type of lubricant does not evaporate when exposed to air and provides a wet sensation for longer sexual encounters. Since they are not water-based, silicone lubes may be used in the shower or bathtub as they’re resistant to water.
Silicone-based lubricants may be more effective and pleasurable for monogamous couples at low risk for sexually transmitted infections.
Cons: Non-water-based lubricants also have downsides. They are messy. Soap and water must be used to remove them, and they will also stain your sheets and clothing. Also, you’ll need to watch your toys. Silicone-based lubricants break down latex, so condoms and sex toys need to be kept away.
You can not underestimate the value of foreplay for those with chronic vaginal dryness. Foreplay gets the juices flowing by increasing sexual arousal. Blood flow to genitals increases, causing the vagina, labia, and clitoris to swell.
Better stimulation leads to more natural lubrication and an increase in vaginal elasticity. The vagina then secretes natural lubrication, which increases pleasure and reduces pain.
For those with chronic vaginal dryness, communicating sexual needs and desires to your partner is critical. Sexual partners may be unaware of the physiological changes and not know what to do. Providing feedback allows the partner to learn how best to meet your needs. You can even sit them down in front of this article as a great way to break the ice.
4. Vaginal Moisturizers
Brands: Popular products include Replens®, Lubrin®, Sylk®, vitamin E vaginal suppositories, Astroglide®, Luvena®, K-Y Jelly®
How they work: Multiple over-the-counter products are available to help increase vaginal moisture. Their effects usually last for several days. The basic idea is to prevent dryness and improve the vaginal ph balance. These products do not treat the underlying cause of vaginal dryness. They are useful for day-to-day use to alleviate discomfort and improve vaginal moisture and can be safely used alongside vaginal lubricants.
Those with sensitive skin may benefit from avoiding products containing parabens, glycerin, or propylene glycol. These additives may cause skin irritation.
5. Vaginal Estrogen
Brands: Estring, Vagifem, Estrace, Premarin
Why: Estrogen is one of the most important female hormones. A decrease in the production of estrogen by the ovaries triggers physiological changes in the vagina. The vaginal tissues thin out, and lubrication decreases. Breastfeeding, certain medications, and menopause all cause estrogen deficiency.
How they Work: Prescription estrogen medication can be placed directly into the vagina to offset the deficiency. Low dose Estrogen applied directly to the vagina bulks up vaginal cells and increases blood flow. Restoring vaginal health allows cells to produce more moisture. Natural lubrication improves, and the more elastic vaginal walls reduce resistance to trauma during penetration.
You have three options with vaginal estrogen to combat vaginal dryness and all three will require a prescription and a visit to your healthcare provider
- Ring (Estring): You or your doctor inserts this soft, flexible ring into your vagina where it releases a steady stream of estrogen directly to the tissues. The ring is replaced every 3 months.
- Tablet (Vagifem): You use a disposable applicator to put a tablet into your vagina once a day for the first two weeks of treatment. Then you do it twice a week until you no longer need it.
- Cream (Estrace, Premarin): You use an applicator to get the cream into your vagina. You’ll typically apply the cream daily for 1 to 2 weeks, then cut back to one to three times a week as directed by your doctor.
Pros: Easy to use[
Cons: Not everyone can use these products. Side effects can include vaginal bleeding and breast pain.
6. DHEA supplements
Brand: Only one medication is commercially available. Prasterone, sold under the brand name Intrarosa
The DHEA hormone is a highly effective alternative to estrogen therapy. Before menopause, DHEA levels are high. As the ovaries stop functioning, DHEA levels fall. DHEA supplements can be placed into the vagina to restore vaginal health, reduce intercourse pain, and improve vaginal dryness.
Only one medication is commercially available. Prasterone, sold under the brand name Intrarosa, is a plant-derived form of DHEA. Prasterone is inserted into the vagina once a day through an easy to use applicator. DHEA converts into estrogen targeting the underlying cause of dryness. It is FDA indicated for painful intercourse.
Prasterone requires a prescription and monitoring by a health provider.
7. Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators
Brands: Ospemifene is the only FDA approved SERM for vaginal dryness and painful intercourse.
How they work: An important alternative to estrogen therapy is a class of drugs called SERMS (Selective Estrogen receptor modulators). These medications act directly on the hormone receptors. Direct targeting of the vaginal tissue increases the thickness of the superficial and parabasal vaginal cells.
Like estrogen and DHEA therapy, the restored health of the vaginal cells improves the natural ability to produce moisture and lubrication.
Pros: For postmenopausal women, selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) drugs act as partial estrogen receptors agonists for maintaining bone density and at the same time act as estrogen receptor antagonists in breast tissues for applications in breast cancer prevention in women, along with effects on the uterus and vagina that depend on their interaction with the estrogen receptors in target tissues.
Cons: Ospemifene requires a prescription and monitoring by a health provider.
8. Topical Sildenafil
Sildenafil is a popular medication used to treat erectile dysfunction in men by increasing blood flow to the penis. Some women benefit from the topical application of Sildenafil.
A pea-size amount of compounded Sildenafil cream is applied directly to the clitoris before intercourse. Sildenafil cream increases blood flow to the clitoris. For some women, the increased blood flow triggers more natural lubrication, improves pleasure, and helps to achieve orgasm.
Sildenafil requires a prescription and monitoring by a health provider for this off-label use.
Vaginal dryness is a problem that is easily overcome
Vaginal dryness is a common symptom among women. Painful intercourse and vaginal discomfort are easily overcome and shouldn’t be allowed to impact your quality of life. The options above can help you safely restore vaginal health and enhance your sexual experience.