Vaginal dryness makes sex uncomfortable — and it can make you avoid intimacy altogether, which is tough for you and your partner. But what can you do when sex becomes painful because of a lack of moisture?
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There are other options besides reaching for K-Y Jelly®. Even though this can help, it’s also important to understand why you’re experiencing vaginal dryness. Start by talking to your healthcare provider and getting a complete pelvic exam, especially if vaginal dryness is a chronic issue for you.
Normally, the vaginal walls are hydrated by a thin layer of clear, odorless fluid. Estrogen influences the pH of the vagina and vaginal secretions. Without enough moisture, vaginal tissue becomes fragile and has the propensity to tear. These fragile tissues can bleed, hurt and make intercourse less appealing.
These factors can most affect vaginal moisture levels.
- Hormones. Changes in vaginal moisture is most often tied to a decline in estrogen levels. Menopause isn’t the only reason for a drop in estrogen production. Breastfeeding and birth control pills can cause this.
- Medical treatments. A drop in vaginal moisture also can result from medications and treatments. These include surgical removal of the ovaries, anti-estrogen medications that treat uterine fibroids or endometriosis, chemotherapy treatment for cancer, and certain antidepressants. Douching can also cause problems with estrogen. Even medications taken for itchy eyes and runny noses (antihistamines) can decrease vaginal secretions.
- Duration of foreplay. Vaginal moisture is tied to arousal. It’s important to spend enough time with your partner enjoying different sensations outside of intercourse. The vagina responds to a variety of sensual parts of the body that can be caressed, including the lips, tongue, clitoris, toes, neck and breast. Cuddling also counts. It’s important for your partner to understand how much foreplay has a role for women during sex.
If you are experiencing a problem with vaginal dryness, there are a variety of treatment options your doctor may suggest. You may even try natural oils, such as grape seed, olive, sweet almond, sunflower or coconut. Understanding the cause of your problem can open up some other possibilities, too.
From the book Us! Our life. Our Health. Our Legacy. by Linda Bradley, MD and Margaret McKenzie, MD