Vaginal dryness is a term that refers to lack of moisture in the vagina and the itchiness and discomfort this causes. Ranging from mildly irritating to distractedly painful, vaginal dryness can seriously affect personal comfort, confidence, and public composure if left undealt with. A woman can suffer from dryness at any point during her life, and the condition occurs for a number of reasons, be these hormonal, environmental, or simply down to bad habits. Read on to learn the various causes of vaginal dryness and what you can do to prevent and treat the condition.
A woman is particularly susceptible to vaginal dryness in the years prior to menopause. This is due to the fluctuations in hormone production that occur during these years, which cause vaginal tissues to become thin, lose elasticity, and secrete less moisture, creating a feeling of uncomfortable dryness. There are ways of tackling these hormonal imbalances specifically, but it is also worth assessing and eliminating other factors in this list that intensify the condition.
Harsh Washing Powders
Using biological detergents when washing underwear is likely to cause or exacerbate vaginal dryness. Opting instead for gentler, non-biological products when laundering your delicates is better for vaginal health.
Choice of Underwear
Thongs, G-strings, and other clingy forms of underwear physically irritate the vagina, which makes infection and vaginal dryness likely. Synthetic materials (e.g., lace and silk) are also somewhat unhygienic, as these restrict air access to the vagina. Wearing underwear that is comfortably-fitting in breathable fabrics, such as cotton briefs, will help prevent genital dryness and infection.
Use of Shower Gels
It is best to use lukewarm water or a gentle, soap-free cleanser when washing intimately, because shower gels or fragranced soaps used elsewhere on the body are likely to upset the delicate balance of the vagina. The chemicals in some products can also worsen dryness.
Douching is an internal vaginal cleansing process favored by many women after menstruation or a period of frequent sexual activity, where the vagina is rinsed with a cleansing solution and water. This disrupts the natural self-cleaning functions in the vagina and upsets its internal pH, which can cause dryness and also increases the risk of contracting vaginal infection. The vagina is adapted for self-cleaning after menstruation and sex, because these are natural processes.
The chemicals used to disinfect hot tubs and swimming pools can cause and worsen vaginal dryness, so if you are concerned you may be suffering with the condition, these are best avoided.
Lack of Sexual Arousal
When a woman is aroused, blood circulation to the vaginal walls increases, which stimulates the secretion of vaginal moisture. Attempting sexual penetration prematurely may create a sensation of dryness and painful friction. Enjoying plenty of foreplay (e.g., caressing and kissing) before penetration helps prevent this, and applying a water-based lubricant provides instant vaginal relief to counteract dryness and ease discomfort for both partners.
Although the causes of vaginal dryness are many, generally these causes are easily minimized by making small adjustments to your washing habits, sex life, and underwear wardrobe. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly will help regulate hormone fluctuations, but for more advice on addressing these imbalances more specifically, click on the following link. Vaginal dryness may be a common issue, but it is not one that women have to suffer with for any long period of time.
- National Health Service UK. (2012). Sex after the menopause. Retrieved March 12, 2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/women4060/Pages/sex-after-the-menopause.aspx
- National Institutes of Health. (2013). Vaginal dryness: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 12, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000892.htm
- Better Health Channel. (2013). Hysterectomy. Retrieved March 12, 2014, from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Hysterectomy?open