During and after menopause, many significant and often unwelcome changes happen in a woman’s body.
The changes are a result of a dramatic fluctuation in estrogen levels in the female body. At the onset of menopause, the production of estrogen tails off before finally stopping altogether, leaving the body working to adapt to the changed environment.
Symptoms of these changes can include hot flashes, a deeper voice, mood swings and even more facial hair. They also include vaginal dryness. A third of all women experience vaginal dryness at this time in their life, making it common, albeit uncomfortable, reality. There are various causes that are thought to trigger the condition and though many people dismiss it as a minor discomfort, vaginal dryness can have a significant impact on your life, particularly your sex life.
The good news is that there are a number of medications, treatments and therapies that can help women deal with vaginal dryness. We’re going to look at these, as well as examine why you might be suffering from the condition, which is a necessary step in beginning your treatment.
Causes of Vaginal Dryness
As we mentioned earlier, the leading cause of vaginal dryness is hormonal fluctuations. However, menopause is not the only thing that causes hormones to fluctuate. Oestrogen levels rise and fall during and after menopause sure, but they also change dramatically after childbirth and during breastfeeding. Treatments for cancers, including pelvic radiation and chemotherapy, have also been known to lower oestrogen levels, which in turn results in uncomfortable dryness.
Other causes include:
Medical conditions aren’t always the cause of vaginal dryness. Sometimes it is just the result of a lack of satisfaction from the woman about her sex life. If she has issues in enjoying sex or stresses about the climax, or if her partner has been having problems with performance or premature ejaculation, vaginal dryness can result.
Cold or allergy drugs that have antihistamines can leave a drying effect in the body, thus, impacting negatively on vaginal lubrication.
Some women are allergic to chemicals found in soap, dyes, perfumes, and other hygiene products. Other allergens that may trigger vaginal dryness include lubricants and other objects that can be placed inside the vagina.
When a woman has psychological or emotional problems such as depression or anxiety, it may inhibit sexual desire, reducing vaginal lubrication and leading to dryness. When a woman is anxious or is undergoing depression, there is also insufficient blood flow, especially in the vaginal area.
Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness
Vaginal dryness is admittedly something of a vague term when in reality there are several symptoms common with the condition that are not widely known. These include:
- a burning sensation in the area
- general soreness
- itching or stinging in the lower part of the vagina and around the vaginal opening
- pain or light bleeding during intercourse
- consistent and recurring urinary tract infections
- more frequent and urgent urination.
Treatment of Vaginal Dryness
Now that we better understand the condition we call vaginal dryness, let’s look at some of the options available to people suffering with the condition. There are two main schools of thought on treatment: hormone therapy and alternative treatments.
One of the most popular, and probably longer-lasting, treatments for vaginal dryness is hormone therapy. Hormone therapy comes in a variety of forms, giving women with vaginal dryness many options in deciding what kind of treatment suits them best. Some of the popular hormone therapy choices include an oestrogen cream, an oestrogen ring, a vaginal oestrogen tablet, an oestrogen patch, and oestrogen and progesterone pills.
Using the oestrogen cream two or three times a week can make a real difference to vaginal dryness. After initial treatment, the cream only needs to be applied once a week or whenever you feel like you need it. The benefit of using this treatment is that you use it only when you feel that you need it. It is effective a few hours after application. Because the system can also absorb a small amount of the cream, you may feel some side effects such as breast tenderness.
You may also opt for the oestrogen ring. This is a plastic ring that you can place in your vagina to release small amounts of estrogen into your system every day. The ring provides a consistent amount of oestrogen, meaning the person using it won’t experience peaks in their hormone levels as you might with the cream.
The vaginal oestrogen tablet is a tablet that a woman suffering from vaginal dryness can insert with an applicator once every day for two weeks and twice a week after that. One disadvantage of using the vaginal estrogen tablet is that the tablets may sometimes cause peaks in estrogen levels. Some women also find the tablet difficult to inset.
Using the oestrogen patch is also very straight forward. Just apply it to your skin and leave it there for three to seven days, after which it needs to be replaced with a fresh one. Since the oestrogen is delivered through the skin, you will use only a small amount.
The best thing to do if you’re considering hormone therapy is to talk with your doctor about the specifics of your condition and your personal situation so they can assist you.
Hormonal therapy may not work for everybody. For those who are averse to hormone therapy, alternative treatments are available, and changes to lifestyle may also alleviate the condition.
In terms of alternative treatments, there are over-the-counter products such as lubricants and moisturizers that one may use to help with vaginal dryness. Water-based lubricants help to keep the vagina lubricated for several hours. Moisturizers, on the other hand, imitate normal vaginal moisture and can relieve dryness for up to three days with only a single application.
Soybeans and soy products have compounds that mimic the effects of oestrogen. Adding soy to your diet, therefore, may relieve vaginal dryness. Pundits also suggest that wild yam and herbal extract cohosh can work to lessen vaginal dryness, however, there aren’t any clinical studies or evidence to show their effectiveness.
Paying attention to sexual needs can also serve to combat vaginal dryness. Occasional vaginal dryness during intimacy could mean that you are not sufficiently aroused. Allow your body to be fully aroused and lubricated by, for example, engaging in foreplay before the act. Regular intercourse may also help to improve vaginal lubrication, but beware not to cause tearing by forcing penetration before you are sufficiently lubricated.
You may also need to avoid certain products. Products such as hand lotions, bubble baths or bath oils, vinegar, yogurt, antibacterial or fragrant soaps may irritate your vagina, and should be avoided until you can rule them out as the cause of your condition.
At the end of the day vaginal dryness is not an unusual condition, nor is it one that you might feel uncomfortable talking about with your doctor or gynaecologist. There are ways that the condition can be conquered, and there’s no need to suffer in silence in dealing with vaginal dryness.
What are some self-care ways you know that can prevent vaginal dryness?
If you become concerned about any symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention we have some hotlines and suggested websites for further information and advice https://www.stayathomemum.com.au/my-kids/babies/important-hotlines-websites/
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