Vaginal dryness is a very common, albeit highly uncomfortable, menopause symptom. In fact, some studies report that 40 - 60% of women develop this symptom at some point during the menopausal transition.
Fortunately, by better understanding vaginal dryness, women can find the best treatment for it and restore their physical and emotional well-being.
Approaches to vaginal dryness treatments can depend on a number of factors, since symptoms range from mild to severe. Learn more about the three main approaches to vaginal dryness treatment.
Three Approaches to Treating Vaginal Dryness
Women looking to treat vaginal dryness will find three approaches to treatment: (1) Lifestyle Changes, (2) Alternative Medicine, and (3) Medications.
It is recommended that women start with lifestyle changes because of its low risk of side effects. While such adjustments are often effective in restoring vaginal moisture, they are unable to directly address hormonal imbalance, which is the underlying cause of vaginal dryness. However, herbal supplements alongside lifestyle changes can treat vaginal dryness safely and effectively. Medications should only be used when other options have been exhausted.
While medical intervention is not usually necessary, some women may wish to consider medications if they are unable to find relief from other treatment options. Women considering this option should first consult a trusted medical professional to better understand the potential benefits and risks involved.
1. Lifestyle Changes for Vaginal Dryness
Making adjustments in lifestyle is the first approach menopausal women should take to relieve vaginal dryness. While this method is low risk and low cost, it requires the most self-discipline. The following self-care techniques can help alleviate vaginal dryness safely:
Products to Try
- Moisturizers. These products act directly on tissue to relieve dryness. Moisturizers may be preferred by women with irritation and burning not limited to sexual activity, and they can also help prevent vaginal infections.
- Lubricants. Water-based vaginal lubricants decrease discomfort during intercourse.
- Vitamin E oil. This nutrient protects membranes from damage.
Note: Only products specifically designed for vaginal lubrication should be used to treat vaginal dryness.
- Blood flow. Regular sexual stimulation, which promotes blood flow to the genital area, can help maintain vaginal health.
- Interaction. Communication between partners can also help.
- Other techniques. If vaginal penetration is difficult, other techniques such as massage, extended caressing, and mutual masturbation may be more comfortable and pleasurable.
Diet and Supplements
- Staying hydrated. Water provides the vaginal lining with more moisture.
- Phytoestrogens. Increasing soy, legume, and flaxseed consumption can help with estrogen deficiency.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Found in cold-water fish and flaxseed oil, this nutrient helps with vaginal lubrication.
- Eating a balanced diet. Low-fat diets can actually worsen vaginal dryness. Unsaturated fats are recommended over saturated ones.
What to avoid
- Vinegar or yogurt
- Hand lotions
- Bubble baths
- Oil-based products, such as petroleum jelly and baby oil
- Antihistamine pills, which dry out mucous membranes, including the vagina
- Caffeine and alcohol consumption, which can dry out tissues
While lifestyle changes are a healthy and holistic form of managing vaginal dryness, they may be hard to implement and keep up with. Exercise and a healthy diet benefit overall health and may alleviate vaginal dryness, but they do not address its underlying cause - hormonal imbalance. However, alternative medicines are a safe and effective way of treating hormonal imbalance and, in turn, vaginal dryness. Keep reading to find out more about natural treatments for vaginal dryness.
2. Alternative Medicine
Alternative medicine approaches can be a highly effective method of treating vaginal dryness, and they are low risk.
This level of treatment encompasses various methods. Herbal supplements are considered the best treatment, but some women may find relief from techniques like massage or biofeedback. While any one of these may produce results, many women find that herbal supplements require less time and monetary commitment in addition to being easier to follow. They are the only type of alternative treatment that can directly treat hormone imbalances.
As for supplementary herbs, there are two types that are practical in treating vaginal dryness: phytoestrogenic and hormone-regulating supplements.
These supplements, such as ginseng and black cohosh, contain certain compounds that mimic the function of estrogen when introduced into the body. This plant-based estrogen can supplement a woman's body with estrogen, helping relieve vaginal dryness. However, due to the addition of outside hormones, the body may become less able to produce hormones naturally, which could ultimately result in a further decline in the body's hormone levels.
By contrast, these supplements are free of hormones, including phytoestrogens. These supplements work by providing nutrients to the endocrine system and thus stimulating the natural production of hormones at balanced levels. This applies not only to estrogen, but also to other vital hormones like progesterone and testosterone. Because the body produces hormones naturally rather than using external hormones, herbal supplements that promote the endocrine system are considered to be a safe and effective way to treat vaginal dryness.
From "Nature and Health Magazine," Dr. Gloria Chacon says:
"Macafem nutrients help restore natural hormones in women. Unlike hormone drugs, which are basically resumed in taking synthetic hormones, Macafem acts totally different in your body. It nourishes and stimulates your own natural hormone production by inducing the optimal functioning of the endocrine glands." Click on the following link to read more about Macafem.
A combination of approaches is typically the most effective form of treating vaginal dryness. Specifically, most women find that lifestyle changes in conjunction with herbal supplements are the best method of treatment. However, in some cases, vaginal dryness may be so persistent or severe that it calls for the third approach - medications - but this should only be considered after exhausting all other options.
The medical approach involves the highest risk and is frequently the most expensive as well. In North America, the most used medication to treat vaginal dryness was once hormone replacement therapy (HRT). While this can be a highly effective treatment for relieving vaginal dryness, it also carries the risk of harmful side effects, such as an increased risk of blood clots and stroke, as the following study shows.
In 1991, the National Institute of Health launched the largest clinical trial ever performed in the U.S., the Women's Health Initiative. This study was designed to answer looming questions regarding the pros and cons of HRT. In July 2002, it was halted due to the discovery that artificial hormones raise the risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, blood clots, stroke, and heart disease. These results were published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Vaginal estrogen therapy is an alternative to oral estrogen treatment that may carry a lower risk of side effects. This is because absorption of estrogen into the bloodstream is minimal, so only the vaginal tissue, which is the target area, is affected. This usually comes in the form of a ring that is inserted into the vagina.
It's important to note that while several medications can potentially help with vaginal dryness, they all can cause significant side effects, which may offset the possible benefits. If vaginal dryness is so severe that a woman wants to choose this type of treatment, she is encouraged to talk to her doctor for advice.
These three approaches can be combined or used separately according to each individual's symptoms. More and more women are finding that alleviating vaginal dryness is best achieved via a combination of healthy lifestyle adjustments and hormone-regulating herbal supplements.
A Safe Way of Treating Vaginal Dryness
Hormone-regulating herbal supplements for easing vaginal dryness, as established in the alternative medicine approach, are often considered the prime treatment because they are effective and have a low risk of side effects.
Macafem, for instance, is considered to be an excellent hormone-regulating herbal supplement. Its mechanism is straightforward: it stimulates the endocrine system to produce natural hormones rather than introducing outside hormones into the body. This is what makes Macafem so distinct. Click on the following link if you want to find out more about Macafem.
- Love, S. (2003). Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press.
- National Institutes of Health. (2013). Vaginal dryness. Retrieved April 29, 2016, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000892.htm