Vaginal dryness during sex or even on a daily basis is not something you should ignore or endure. Learn more about what causes it and how you can address this health concern in this list of frequently asked questions and answers.
In this article:
- What Is Vaginal Dryness?
- What Are the Causes of Vaginal Dryness?
- How Can You Manage Vaginal Dryness?
- Are There Side Effects for Vaginal Dryness Treatments?
- How Is Vaginal Dryness Diagnosed?
How to Recover from Vaginal Dryness During Sex: Causes and Treatments
What Is Vaginal Dryness?
Vaginal dryness happens when the walls of the vagina lack the amount of moisture it needs to stay lubricated. It may cause pain, vaginal itching, or a burning sensation during sexual intercourse.
The hormone estrogen is responsible for vaginal lubrication. When a woman’s estrogen level drops, so does the lubricating fluid, resulting in a dry vagina.
What Are the Causes of Vaginal Dryness?
The drop in the levels of estrogen that causes vaginal dryness can happen at any age due to a variety of reasons. Here are some of the possible causes:
- Surgically removed ovaries
- Anti-estrogen medications like androgen steroids
- Sjögren’s syndrome
- Cold medications
- Allergy medications or antihistamines
- Some antidepressants like serotonin and norepinephrine
- Lack of foreplay and arousal before sex
Sjögren’s Syndrome Definition: An autoimmune condition of the glands responsible for the production of tears and saliva. Its main symptoms include dry eyes and mouth.
One of the most common causes, though, is menopause. When the levels of female hormones drop — especially estrogen — vaginal atrophy may occur, drying and inflaming the vaginal walls.
Vaginal Atrophy Definition: Also called atrophic vaginitis. It makes the vaginal walls thin, dry, and inflamed due to the lack or low levels of estrogen hormones in the body.
How Can You Manage Vaginal Dryness?
There is no one-time female dryness cure. Nonetheless, there are temporary fixes and treatments with more long-term effects you can choose from.
1. Vaginal Lubricants
If you experience vaginal dryness during sex, one of the go-to quick fixes are lubricants. Vaginal lubricants reduce the friction within the vaginal walls during intercourse.
Lubricants come in gel or liquid form and applied to the vagina before having sex. They cannot be absorbed by the skin.
They are fast-acting and will offer temporary relief from vaginal dryness. Two of the most popular vaginal lubrication brands are K-Y and Astroglide.
2. Vaginal Moisturizers
Vaginal moisturizers act similarly to lubricants when it comes to vaginal dryness during sex, except the skin absorbs moisturizers. They stick to the vaginal lining and can feel like natural lubrication.
As a result, the lubricating feeling can last up to 3-4 days.
Another thing that makes them different from vaginal lubricants is that moisturizers must be applied daily, not just before intercourse. Some of the popular vaginal moisturizers are Replens, K-Y Silk E, and Fresh Start.
3. Vagifem Vaginal Tablets
Aside from the quick, temporary fixes, women can also turn to topical estrogen therapy to treat vaginal dryness. One of which is vaginal tablets.
Vagifem tablets help in reducing the symptoms of menopause down there, such as vaginal dryness. Some women prefer this treatment because it’s less messy compared to the other types of solutions, i.e. vaginal creams.
Simply use the applicator provided to insert the tablet into the vagina. In the first two weeks of treatment, use it once a day.
After that, take Vagifem twice a week or as necessary.
4. Estring Vaginal Ring
The Estring vaginal ring is a soft but flexible ring inserted into the vagina. It is used for a maximum of three months, even during sex, and then taken out for replacement.
Its mechanism of action involves releasing estrogen to the vaginal tissues to keep the vaginal lining lubricated and elastic.
5. Vaginal Creams
Vaginal creams act like moisturizers in a way, but they offer long-term relief of vaginal dryness during sex. Do take note, though, that this hormonal treatment cannot be applied before sex as your partner’s skin can also absorb the estrogen.
The most common brand names for vaginal creams are Premarin and Estrace. They are applied to the vagina two to three times a week and in 0.5 to 1.0-gram doses.
Tip: Try these feminine dryness remedies to prevent the worsening of vulvar dryness:
- Avoid washing the inner parts of the vulva with soap, or worse, scented soaps.
- Do not douche.
- Only use unscented toilet paper.
- Do not do bubble baths.
- Wash underwear with dye-free and perfume-free detergents; avoid using fabric conditioners on them, too.
- Avoid using lotions on the inner vulva.
Are There Side Effects for Vaginal Dryness Treatments?
Since most vaginal dryness treatment options deal with the body’s hormones, care and adherence to medical advice or treatment plan are needed to prevent side effects.
Note that oil-based lubricants or moisturizers do not work well with high-latex condoms as these can cause breakage. Avoid using them together.
Topical estrogen therapy may have side effects, and two of which are vaginal bleeding and breast pain. Thus, you may not be a candidate for topical estrogen therapy if you:
- Are taking aromatase inhibitor due to breast cancer or any condition
- Had endometrial cancer or any history of cancer
- Experience vaginal bleeding
- Are pregnant
How Is Vaginal Dryness Diagnosed?
If you experience itching and burning in the vagina along with unusual dryness, you should give your doctor a call. The doctor will examine you to rule out other possible causes or conditions, e.g. urinary tract infection.
The doctor will perform a pelvic exam to check the vagina for inflammation and thinning. He or she may also do a Pap test to check the health of your cervical cells.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the doctor will recommend hormonal treatments, like vaginal estrogen therapy, or menopausal hormone therapy, depending on your needs.
Vaginal dryness during sex is understandably a health concern among women. Nonetheless, do know that there are temporary and long-term treatments you can choose from to improve the quality of your sex life starting today.