Anyone with a vagina and estrogen can experience issues with vaginal dryness. There are usually several obvious and common reasons as to why.
While vaginal dryness is common and an unfortunate nuisance in general, it can actually have a big impact on someone’s wellbeing. It can affect their experience of sex rather negatively in particular.
If we are trying to engage in sexual intercourse without being lubricated, it could lead to pain, discomfort, light bleeding post-intercourse or even burning/stinging in the vagina. Vaginal dryness, while not uncommon, is not something you should just put up with. Understanding what causes it and how to manage it can make a difference to your overall experience of intercourse.
So, what exactly causes vaginal dryness?
There are certain life events or factors that can wreak havoc on our hormones, and estrogen specifically. Estrogen is the hormone we need in balance to get naturally lubricated.
Here are some of the most common culprits:
Events like our period, childbirth, breastfeeding, and menopause can all disrupt our body’s ability to naturally produce lubricant. Sex during these times can feel extremely uncomfortable and we need a helping hand with lubricant during these times.
Because hormonal contraceptives contain synthetic hormones, they can disrupt our body’s ability to get lubricated. However, it’s not helpful to blame contraceptives for this but rather investigate other causes first because jumping off the contraceptive train.
I’m a firm believer that you should not be washing your vagina with anything other than water (and sexual health doctors will agree with this). Soap can disrupt the Ph balance, cause infection and thus interrupt your production of natural lubrication. The vagina is self-cleaning and I promise it doesn’t need anything fancy selling or otherwise!
Certain drugs and treatments can mess up our hormonal balance and therefore our ability to naturally lubricate. Medication such as some for colds and flu or some antidepressants – all commonly prescribed and consumed medication – will, unfortunately, impact our hormonal balance. Medical treatments like chemotherapy can, unfortunately, affect our soft tissue, such as in our mouth or vagina, and that’s why someone undergoing treatment may complain of dryness in both.
Lack of arousal
Probably the biggest culprit of pre-menopausal women, not getting turned on enough is by far the biggest culprit for not getting lubricated enough. If there’s not enough sex happening before intercourse to turn you on, or if arousal non-concordance is happening, your ability to naturally lubricate will be impacted. Arousal non-concordance is when there is a disconnect between how your mind and body respond in terms of sexual arousal. Sometimes your mind can be screaming “hell yes” but your body hasn’t quite got the memo yet!
It’s inevitable that if you’ve got a vagina, you will experience vaginal dryness. For any couple engaging in sexual activity, ‘wetter is better’ should be a mantra for a satisfying sex life.
So what can we do about it to ensure that sex feels far more smooth and sexy?
Wetter really is better, as you’ll know if you’ve struggled with vaginal dryness. Therefore, the number one sexual aid I recommend is a lubricant. Do spend a little more on getting yourself a good quality lube, especially since a little does go a long way. While KY Gel is a great cheap option from Dischem/ Clicks and will do the trick, it may not last as long as you need it to or it may not feel as luxurious.
So, perhaps consider investing a little into a more high-end lubricant from a sexual health store. I love brands like Pjur (silicone-based) as it’s long-lasting and feels supernatural. Just a warning – not all silicone-based lubes are safe with sex toys! You can also find wonderful water-based lubricants, such as local brands Anara and Liquid Gold, all toy and condom safe. Never use an oil-based lubricant if you’re using condoms. And the only food products safe to use vaginally are egg whites (really!) and coconut oil (just not with condoms).
Topical estrogen/ vaginal moisturisers
If your vaginal dryness is persistent and caused by an ongoing condition or life event, then your doctor may prescribe topical estrogen or an intravaginal moisturiser. Both can make a real difference to your experience of sexual intercourse. They are even safe to use during cancer treatment.
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