Whether you’re approaching menopause or have already reached it, you may be dealing with a sensitive symptom of the transition — vaginal dryness. As the body’s production of estrogen drops, your vagina may lose some of its lubrication. That can lead to discomfort, including pain during sex. Fortunately, there are several ways to ease vaginal dryness.
Why Vaginal Dryness Occurs
Low estrogen can lead to some fundamental changes to your vagina. Inflammation can affect the vaginal walls, and they may become thinner and drier. In addition, the vagina may lose some of its elasticity. Collectively, these changes are known as vaginal atrophy.
The vagina’s chemistry may also become more alkaline. In addition, vaginal dryness can affect surrounding tissue. For example, if the vagina dries, the vulva may as well.
How Vaginal Dryness Can Affect You
There’s nothing pleasant about vaginal dryness. In addition to painful intercourse, symptoms can include:
- Bleeding (if tears in the vaginal wall occur)
- Burning sensation
Vaginal dryness can increase your risk of infection due to pH changes in the vagina. Dryness can contribute to discomfort if infections occur.
Pain during sex may reduce sexual satisfaction, or lead you to avoid sexual activity altogether. Both can reduce your quality of life and affect your relationship with your spouse or partner.
What You Can Do to Find Relief
Vaginal dryness is one of the most common menopausal symptoms, but not every woman experiences it. For those who do, the level of discomfort, including during sex, varies. The timing of vaginal dryness is also variable — some women experience it in the years leading up to menopause, but for others, it may not occur until years later.
If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness and related symptoms, seek help. Vaginal dryness is unlikely to go away on its own. In most cases, it gets worse without treatment. Your OB-GYN can recommend a variety of options, some available without a prescription, including:
- Vaginal lubricants. A water- or silicone-based lubricant — avoid oil-based products, which can irritate the vagina — can reduce pain during sex.
- Vaginal moisturizers. These products can help relieve symptoms by bringing moisture to the vaginal walls.
Another key type of treatment, hormone therapy, requires a prescription, and your OB-GYN can determine if it’s appropriate for you. Several options are available, including vaginal creams and tablets, and vaginal rings. All of these products release estrogen, but the dosages are smaller than other types of hormone therapy for menopause. A non-estrogen-releasing prescription medication is also available.
Don’t allow vaginal dryness to affect your quality of life. Partner with your OB-GYN to find a treatment that works for you.
Talk with a Women’s Health Professional
No matter how the menopause transition affects you, you don’t have to face its symptoms alone. For answers to your questions about menopause symptoms, find a women’s health services provider at St. Elizabeth Physicians in Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana.