Vaginal dryness is pretty common problem during menopause, and it is typical of the genitourinary syndrome known as atrophic vaginitis or vaginal atrophy. This condition makes vaginal tissues thinner and easily irritated due to the natural decrease in estrogen levels that occurs most frequently during menopause (Mayo Clinic, 2021).
According to the National Health Service in the United Kingdom (NHS, 2018), the changes in estrogen levels experienced in menopause are one of the leading causes of vaginal dryness. This hormonal imbalance can diminish the amount of vaginal discharge or fluid, causing uncomfortable symptoms such as pain or itching.
Possible complications and consequences of vaginal dryness in menopause
Vaginal dryness experienced in menopause can start from perimenopause. This symptom can make sex painful and cause minor cuts in your vagina during sexual activity. These cuts can also mean a risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (OASH, 2018).
These manifestations of vaginal dryness cause discomfort in the pelvic and vaginal regions. Dryness in the vagina can also bring consequences such as the following (Nall, 2019; Medline Plus, 2019):
- Vaginal infections caused by bacteria or fungi.
- Burning when urinating.
- Loss of interest in sex.
- Light bleeding after sexual intercourse.
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs) —such as cystitis — that do not go away or that may recur.
Tips to combat vaginal dryness
There are simple and effective treatments to treat the causes of dryness during menopause. These treatments can help minimize your symptoms and include the application of a vaginal lubricant, creams, gels, patches, among others. Even hormone therapy to increase estrogen levels helps alleviate the symptoms (NHS, 2018).).
Here you can find eight tips to deal with vaginal dryness during menopause that will help you feel better.
1. Use vaginal moisturizers
Vaginal moisturizers can help keep your vagina moist and make sex more comfortable. They are available over the counter. Those water or silicone-based are recommended because they have ingredients such as dimethicone that help restore moisture in the vaginal area. Apply them several times a week to keep vaginal tissues healthy. Their effects last slightly longer than a vaginal lubricant (OASH, 2018; Mayo Clinic, 2021).
2. Apply vaginal lubricants to reduce discomfort during sexual intercourse
A vaginal lubricant can be used to supplement moisturizers before sexual intercourse. Vaginal lubricants are also available over the counter, and water-based or silicone-based are mostly recommended. You can apply them before and during sex to reduce vaginal dryness and relieve pain and discomfort (Nall, 2019; Mayo Clinic, 2021).
Choose those without glycerin, perfumes, herbal extracts, or artificial colors, as they irritate the vagina. Avoid using petroleum jelly and mineral oil as a vaginal lubricant, as they can damage the latex in condoms, which increases the risk of vaginal infections (Nall, 2019; Mayo Clinic, 2021).
3. Use unscented soaps for intimate hygiene
Neutral intimate soaps for the hygiene of your vagina will help keep it healthy. Use the ones that are dermatologically and gynecologically tested. Choose those that do not have surfactants, perfumes, or soapy substances, to avoid altering the pH of the vagina and damaging its tissues. It is better if they are made with natural ingredients such as aloe vera, tea tree oil, thyme, or coconut oil that provide moisture (Sevilla, 2021; Echeverri, 2020).
4. Maintain an active lifestyle to fight dryness
Exercising and maintaining an active sex life positively impacts the quality of life. These two activities will help you combat vaginal dryness during menopause, as your body remains healthy and can increase stamina during sexual intercourse (Echeverri, 2020; Mayo Clinic, 2021).
You can do exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor and tone your vagina. In addition, sexual arousal increases blood flow in the genital area and produces natural lubrication (Echeverri, 2020; Mayo Clinic, 2021)..
5. Keep a healthy diet with essential nutrients
Having a healthy diet that provides vitamins and minerals helps alleviate the symptoms of menopause. Eat foods rich in B vitamins such as lentils, meats, and eggs, and foods that provide vitamin B3 and A help maintain normal mucous membranes, including the vagina (McDermott, 2019; Instituto de la Menopausia, n.d.).
These nutrients are found in beef, eggs, nuts, dairy, and grains like wheat. Vitamin B3 helps form sex hormones and can prevent symptoms such as vaginal dryness. Eat fruits and vegetables such as oranges, tomatoes, and paprika, which contain vitamin C, a nutrient that helps the normal formation of collagen (McDermott, 2019; Instituto de la Menopausia, n.d.).
Include in your diet those foods that provide phytoestrogens, such as isoflavones, which are substances that can have some effects similar to estrogen. These are found in vegetables like soybeans and spinach and can improve dryness. Also, ask your doctor if you need to include supplements of these nutrients to improve menopausal symptoms (Medline Plus, 2019; Hill, 2020).
6. Increase water consumption
Increasing your water intake will help keep your body hydrated, which favors the production of natural lubricants. It is necessary to drink enough water so that the vaginal region is hydrated. About 8 to 10 glasses can help keep the skin moist and prevent swelling caused by hormonal changes (Laguipo, 2020).
7. Try herbal supplements that help relieve vaginal dryness
Herbal supplements can be taken in teas, capsules, and other forms. They can be used as an alternative therapy to control or relieve vaginal dryness and other symptoms of menopause. Black cohosh, red clover, Dong Quai, maca, and other herbs have phytoestrogens that work in a similar way to estrogen and can help alleviate these symptoms (Hill, 2020).
8. Estrogen hormone therapy
If other methods do not work, physician-guided estrogen hormone therapy can relieve vaginal dryness. It is used in two ways: topically in the vagina in low doses and orally in higher doses. It is crucial to consult your gynecologist if you want to use hormone therapy. You can choose to use (Mayo Clinic, 2021; OASH, 2019).
- Low-dose estrogen creams and gels keep the vagina moist.
- A vaginal ring that releases constant low doses of estrogen to relieve symptoms of dryness. Also, you find those with higher amounts of estrogen used when other symptoms of menopause, such as moderate or severe hot flashes occur.
- Low-dose estrogen suppositories or vaginal tablets that release the hormone periodically.
- In some cases, oral pills or skin patches with higher doses of estrogen combined with progesterone.
Vaginal dryness appears during menopause due to the decrease in estrogen production. It can affect your self-esteem and your sexual activity, in addition to causing discomfort in the vaginal area. Try these tips to combat it and keep your vagina moist. Using these remedies will, for sure, help you feel better.
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Servicio Nacional de Salud en el Reino Unido (NHS) (2018, November 15). Sequedad vaginal. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaginal-dryness/
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