The No-Nonsense Guide to Vaginal Dryness
We know that vaginal dryness is one of the most common symptoms of menopause, but that doesn’t make it any less of a pain in the, *ahem*, vag. It’s uncomfortable, disruptive, and downright annoying.
But silver linings time: There is a plethora of prescription medicines, at-home remedies, and alternative medicine practices to make things a little more comfortable down there.
What Causes Vaginal Dryness During Menopause?
Vaginal dryness (also known as “atrophic vaginitis” or “vaginal atrophy”) affects an estimated 50 percent of postmenopausal women, according to Harvard Health. The actual number might be even higher — a whopping 76 percent of women who take Kindra Menopause Quiz deal with vaginal dryness.
The sex hormone estrogen does a lot in your body, including helping to lubricate your vaginal tissues and keeping them strong and flexible. This makes penetrative sex more comfortable (and, you know, fun). But as your estrogen levels decline during perimenopause, your vaginal tissues shrink, thin, and become dry and inflamed.
How to Deal With Vaginal Dryness at Home
Unlike a lot of other menopause issues, there thankfully is a decent amount of research on vaginal dryness and how to treat it. It’s always worth chatting with your doctor about what treatment options are right for you. Depending on your symptoms, they may recommend one, or a few, of the following at-home treatments.
Vaginal and vulvar lotions: Just like you’d treat dry skin on your face with moisturizer, you can hydrate your nether regions the same way with specially-formulated lotions. They’re typically designed to help the vaginal area better retain moisture, and are either inserted inside the vagina or applied to the vulvar tissue outside the vagina. Kindra’s Daily Vaginal Lotion uses hydrating glycerin plus anti-inflammatory niacinamide to help soothe and moisturize the area.
Vaginal serums: Kindra’s new V Relief Serum is specially-formulated for extra dry, sensitive tissues thanks to hydrating hyaluronic and sensitivity-busting peptides. (Never use face or body lotion on your vagina or vulva — it might irritate skin or disrupt vaginal pH.)
- Vaginal lubricants: Lube is always a good idea in the bedroom, but if you’re experiencing painful sex due to vaginal dryness, it’s a real game-changer. Apply it just before sex and during, when needed. The National Institute on Aging recommends a water-based lubricant over oil- or silicone-based products to avoid irritation (and ensure compatibility with condoms).
- Have sex: Getting it on helps stimulate blood flow to the tissues, which may help relieve vaginal dryness. (Masturbation counts, too!)
- Avoid perfumed soaps and washes: Perfumed soaps and washes can further irritate and dry out your genital skin, so opt for unscented personal care products like Soothe Bath Soak, if you can.
When to See a Doctor About Vaginal Dryness
- Your vaginal dryness persists despite your at-home remedies.
- You’re experiencing bleeding from your vagina or unusual vaginal discharge.
- Your vaginal dryness is interrupting your life.
- You have been bleeding during sex or in between your period (if you still get periods).
Vaginal estrogen treatments are some of the most common treatments doctors prescribe for vaginal dryness. These products contain very small amounts of estrogen and help reintroduce the hormone directly to the areas that need it. Only a low dose of estrogen is used and very little of it is absorbed in the bloodstream, meaning there is less risk of estrogen-related side effects like blood clots than HRT.
That said, not everyone can or wants to take hormones. Thankfully, there are alternatives that can help with vaginal dryness, sans estrogen:
- Prasterone (Intrarosa): Another intervention designed to make intimacy a little less painful, these inserts administer the hormone DHEA (which helps make estrogen) directly into the vagina. This treatment is prescription-only and has to be used daily for it to work. It’s not recommended for people who have a history of breast cancer, but can be used by other people who wish to avoid estrogen.
- Topical lidocaine: This is a prescribed ointment or gel that you can apply right before having sex to make it a more comfortable experience. It doesn’t directly address vaginal dryness, but can help relieve pain or discomfort that it causes during sex.
- Vaginal dilators: Vaginal dilators may be used on their own or in addition to estrogen therapies. These devices loosen your vaginal muscles to alleviate some of the pain you may be feeling down there.
- Pelvic floor physical therapy: If sex is feeling particularly painful, your doctor may recommend pelvic floor physical therapy, which can strengthen the muscles supporting your bladder and uterus.
Outlook for Post Menopause
Like all menopause symptoms, there’s no set end date for vaginal dryness. On average, menopause symptoms last about four years after your final period. But there are many treatments at your disposal for making vaginal dryness more bearable.