Among the many menopausal symptoms women don’t talk about too often, especially with their doctors, is vaginal dryness. Many women believe it just comes with the territory: along with the hot flashes, headaches, breast tenderness, and all the other symptoms associated with the transitional years, vaginal dryness can feel like the final straw because it seems like a jab at female sexuality.
But don’t despair! You don’t have to live with the discomfort, embarrassment, or frustration of poor or no vaginal lubrication. Let’s take a closer look at this symptom.
What is vaginal dryness?
Vaginal dryness, which is also known as vaginal atrophy or atrophic vaginitis, typically begins during perimenopause and progresses until postmenopause, when about 50 percent of women experience this symptom. However, since about half of women don’t get vaginal dryness, it appears this annoying symptom isn’t just a part of getting older, according to Dr. Caroline Mitchell, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School.
Why does vaginal dryness occur during menopause?
Estrogen is responsible for maintaining the amount of fluid that lubricates the walls of the vagina and helps keep it thick, elastic, and healthy. As women enter perimenopause and go on to menopause, estrogen levels keep declining, and so does the amount of fluid. Without sufficient fluid in the vagina, the vaginal tissues become thinner and are more easily irritated.
How can you treat vaginal dryness naturally?
Many women who are experiencing vaginal dryness are too embarrassed to discuss this symptom with their doctor or even their sexual partner. Yet there are safe, natural ways women can help remedy this problem. Here are a few of them.
- Have more sex. This may sound like an unlikely solution, but regular sexual intercourse or other vaginal stimulation helps keep vaginal tissues moist and healthy.
You can try some of the following tips to help make sexual activity more comfortable and pleasurable.
- Use natural lubricants. Nature has some safe, effective oils that can be used to moisten the vagina. Try avocado, coconut, jojoba, olive, or vitamin E oil during sexual activity or if you are using a vaginal dilator. (Don’t know what a vaginal dilator is? See below.)
- Try a vaginal dilator. This is tube-shaped device you can use to help stretch the vagina and enhance natural lubrication. Be sure to use one of the natural lubricants along with the dilator.
- Know kudu. This is an herbal supplement that has been used to reduce vaginal dryness and boost vaginal tissue health. In one study, use of kudu daily for six months proved helpful in otherwise healthy postmenopausal women.
- Avoid toxins. Do not use any scented urinary incontinence pads or liners or scented soaps, and wear only cotton panties.
- Communicate. It can help to talk about your concerns with your sexual partner so you at least can help reduce your stress about the situation and you can work on the problem together. Talking with a close friend or your doctor also can help.
- Take probiotics. Beneficial bacteria can restore a healthy pH balance to the vagina, and this then makes it a more welcome environment for vaginal tissue moisture. In a study of women who had vaginal atrophy and chronic recurrent bacterial cystitis, use of the probiotic Lactobacilli casei rhamnosus Doderleini reduced vaginal dryness and painful sexual intercourse.
When to talk to a doctor
If you don’t get any relief from these natural remedies, talk to your healthcare provider. You may be experiencing vaginal dryness related to some other underlying condition or cause.
Vaginal dryness can be not only uncomfortable but a real challenge to your sex life. Natural remedies can be very effective and are safe.