For most women, vaginal dryness during pregnancy is a difficult and embarrassing topic to talk about. However, understanding this symptom will help women address it and, eventually, solve it. This page will provide important information about vaginal dryness during pregnancy.
What Is Vaginal Dryness during Pregnancy?
Vaginal dryness during pregnancy is essentially a loss of the usual moisture and elasticity of the vaginal tissue. Women of all ages can be affected by vaginal dryness, although it is mostly associated with menopause.
Vaginal dryness is deeply uncomfortable, as it can quickly lead to itching, make sexual intercourse painful, and raise the likelihood of developing a yeast infection. Therefore, it is important to keep this symptom in check, as potential infections during pregnancy are harder to treat and could (albeit rarely) lead to complications during labor.
What Causes Vaginal Dryness during Pregnancy?
Normally, the vagina is kept moist and elastic thanks to the vaginal epithelium - the mucous membranes located in the uterus and vaginal canal. These membranes, however, depend on estrogen levels to maintain and continuously lubricate themselves. During pregnancy, both estrogen and progesterone levels rise sharply, although sharp fluctuations are common as well, especially during the first and third trimesters. In addition, pregnancy itself can place extra burden on the body.
There are other factors that could worsen vaginal dryness during pregnancy or make it more likely, such as using underwear made of synthetic materials, not hydrating properly, or being prone to vaginal dryness before pregnancy. Either way, given that estrogen imbalance is the most probable cause of vaginal dryness during pregnancy, there are many easy and safe ways to overcome it.
How to Deal with Vaginal Dryness
The first step in dealing with vaginal dryness should be to ensure you are giving your body the support it needs to maintain regulated hormone levels. A healthy and balanced diet, alongside increased hydration, are the most sensible first step; alternative medicine offers many possible routes to balance hormone levels, although it's best to check with a doctor before taking any supplement while pregnant, even if natural.
On the other hand, pelvic exercises (also known as Kegels) can be very effective in promoting increased blood flow to the vagina, and they don't pose any risk to the pregnancy. Physical activity is also a great method to promote general wellness and hormonal balance - low jogging or swimming can be great during the first months of pregnancy, but as the third trimester approaches, they may become uncomfortable. Check with your physician to assess which form of activity will be most effective during each stage of pregnancy.
Three approaches for treating vaginal dryness during pregnancy:
- BMJ Group. "Menopause: What is it?" Patient Leaflet. 2007.
- Hopkins, Virginia. Lee, John R. M.D. What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause. New York: Warner Books Inc., 1996.
- Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
- Martin, Raquel. The Estrogen Alternative. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2000.