Explore the ins and outs of Vaginal Dryness with us.
What vaginal dryness is, how common it is, its symptoms, causes including diabetes and dyspareunia, treatment, how personal lubricants can help, which lubricant base is best, tips on how to apply the lubricant in both the everyday situation and for sexual encounters.
Learn about ways to make sex with vaginal dryness easier, and how to help both your partner and yourself through the changes.
What is Vaginal Dryness?
In a perfect world our vagina stays naturally moist and elastic with a thin layer of clear fluid in part triggered by the hormone oestrogen. A decline in oestrogen levels, vulvovaginal atrophy, can lead to changes in our vagina and genital tissues where the vaginal mucosa becomes thinner, drier and the vulva more vulnerable to pain and infections.
This pain can be with sexual intercourse or something as everyday as walking, causing great distress in our relationships with ourselves and our special others.
Not all vaginal dryness is oestrogen related. When someone talks about vaginal dryness what they are actually talking about is a lack of moisture in different areas of the vulva. This may be a dryness of the entire vulva, or just a part. The dryness may not always be there, it may come and go.
Vaginal dryness is a symptom of something else and should be discussed with your doctor.
Vaginal moisture is required to keep the vagina lubricated and healthy, while having sex the Bartholin’s glands produce extra moisture for lubrication. The vaginal fluids which are mainly produced by the cervix at the top of the vagina are slightly acidic. This acidity helps fight against infections, such as thrush, and clean the vagina.
The main things to know about vaginal dryness are:
- It’s very common
- Under discussed
- Usually easily treatable
- Can affect vagina owners at any age or stage of life &
- It’s a symptom of something else and should be discussed with your doctor.
How Common is Vaginal Dryness?
Very. It’s estimated approximately half of all postmenopausal people experience vaginal dryness. In a study of breast cancer survivors, vaginal dryness was present in 23.4% of the premenopausal and in 61.5% of the postmenopausal people.
Another study on Australians found 16.7% had vaginal dryness, but unlike many countries we also have a strong relationship with our health providers and are discussing the issue. The same study found 48.6% of us discussed our sex-life with our doctor, and our doctors regularly recommend lubricants as the treatment for the symptom of vaginal dryness.
What Are The Vaginal Dryness Symptoms?
To start with the most noticeable symptom is often a lack of lubrication during intercourse.
But over time depending on what has caused the vaginal dryness, there may be a loss of vaginal elasticity, thinning and drying of the vaginal lining, vaginal shortening and narrowing, the cervix may become flush with the vaginal wall, small tears in the vaginal epithelium may occur and can cause vaginal spotting, discharge may become a thin watery yellow or grey, pH may rise causing the vagina to become less acidic and lose some of the bacteria used to fight against infections.
Again we stress it’s important for a doctor to look at these symptoms, as although a vaginal pH of 4.6 can mean vulvovaginal atrophy, it can also be due to a bacterial vaginosis.
No matter how your vaginal dryness is occurring it can cause: irritation, itching and burning; soreness of the vulva; discomfort; and difficulty exercising. This can all lead to dyspareunia, which is difficulty with or painful sexual intercourse.
What Causes Vaginal Dryness?
Just as the symptoms of vaginal dryness are so varied, so are the causes.
Given the causes of vaginal dryness are so varied it’s an important reason to bust the myth that vaginal dryness is only something postmenopausal people experience. Not knowing vaginal dryness can strike for other reasons is why so many people suffer in silence not knowing what is wrong and feeling ashamed to talk about it.
The potential causes for a dry vulva are many, and they including:
- oral contraceptives
- menopause and perimenopause (this is the time leading up to menopause)
- advanced endometriosis
- surgical removal of ovaries
- anti-oestrogen medications
- allergy medications
- immune disorders
- intense vaginal hygiene
- washing powders
- swimming pool and spa chemicals
- some tampons
- excessive intake of alcohol or caffeinated beverages or nicotine
- excessive exercise
- sjogren’s syndrome
- multiple sclerosis
- past traumatic sexual experiences
- lack of foreplay or arousal
– to name just a few.
How Does Diabetes Impact Vaginal Dryness?
Those of us living with diabetes are more likely to experience sexual issues, 42% of of us according to one study. This same study also found those with diabetes have a 33% increased rate of vaginal dryness. And if you are postmenopausal the chances of having painful intercourse are 3.48 times greater than non-diabetic postmenopausal people, and it should be noted vaginal dryness occurs in half of the non-diabetic postmenopausal population.
Some of the reasons for this increase with diabetes include vaginal changes due to functional vascular changes, neuropathy, or tissue glycosylation related to diabetes and side effects from the diabetic medications. Thrush, which equally will make sexual intercourse uncomfortable, is also an extremely common condition due to the high blood glucose levels.
Again check in with your doctor and gain the best treatment and advice. And if that treatment happens to involve lubrication, we’d love to help you out. Vavven has a great range of body safe and ethical lubricants to put the pleasure back in your stride.
What Causes Dyspareunia, Painful Sex?
Dyspareunia is painful vaginal intercourse, it can be before, during or after intercourse and does not require penetration to be painful.
Many commentators note dyspareunia can cause relationship issues due to a loss in sexual interest. Although we believe a good sex life is healthy and that dyspareunia can be an issue which can affect your sex life, we believe the most important step for you is gaining medical help to find the root cause of the pain.
Dsypareunia will only cause an issue for your relationship if you are not open with your special other and discuss what’s going on. Sure you still want to be able to interact in the closeness sexual pleasure brings, but maybe broadening your horizons on how pleasure can be found will help greatly while you work with your doctor to solve the dyspareunia.
Not having adequate moisture, also called vaginal dryness, can lead to Dyspareunia but this is just one of many causes of dysareunia. It can also be caused by other factors such as, infection, illness, surgery, stress, anxiety, and it may even be psychological. Treatment will be varied and this is why talking with both your doctor and your special other is extremely important.
Infections can come from a number of places, and once your vagina is experiencing any issues (dryness, infection etc) it can become a cycle if not treated.
Follow this link to learn more about dyspareunia and its causes and treatments.
Is Lubricant The Best Treatment For Vaginal Dryness?
Well the short answer is no, it’s not the best treatment for vaginal dryness. But yes it is the best treatment for the symptom of vaginal dryness, that is, a dry vagina.
A water based lubrication can add moisture and reduce friction for a short period of time. Silicon based lubricant doesn’t add moisture but it reduces friction for a greater amount of time than water based lubricants. Hence both lubricants can provide a much welcome relief from the discomfort of a dry vagina.
It should be noted the wrong lubricant, one which contains ingredients you react to or of a non-recommended osmolality rating, could also be the cause of your vaginal dryness.
A study found Australians had the greatest level of awareness of personal lubricants (92%), and also showed the greatest percentage of vagina owners who have used lubricants (59.7%), with 47.6% having used them in the past year.
The best treatment for vaginal dryness is not just to treat the symptom but to check in with your doctor and discuss the issue. As seen above the causes are so varied, if you treat the symptom without also discussing the issue with a professional you may be masking a much larger health issue.
Chatting with a doctor is not hard, just say ‘hey I’m experiencing vaginal dryness, I’ve found a great lubricant to treat the symptom but I wanted to check there isn’t something we should test to make sure it’s not part of a bigger issue?’
Sure you’ll feel a little embarrassed but truly your doctor will not. They’re there to help you and preventive care is a big part of their work. They have no idea what to test you for if you’re not honest about your symptoms, so when you’re deciding what symptoms to discuss, discuss them all, what seems unrelated to you may not be to them.
What’s A Personal Lubricant and How Does It Help with Vaginal Dryness?
Personal lubricants can do two things
- reduce the friction between two surfaces, such as, skin touching skin or skin touching intimate toys or condoms. It allows one surface to glide across the other without grabbing. This can help to reduce genital skin irritation during sex & lower the risk of condoms breaking. It also just feels damn good. And
- if using a water-based lubricant of the correct osmolality, it can hydrate your dry skin
But although personal lubricants can make sex and many other activities pleasurable again, they are treating a symptom. So check in with your doctor and find the root cause of the issue, the treatment may still be the same but knowledge is queen.
Is Water or Silicone Lubricant Best For Vaginal Dryness?
There are four classes of lubricants: water-based, silicone-based, oil-based, and hybrid (a mix of water and silicone).
We recommend working with water, silicone or hybrids as oil-based lubricants (vaseline, baby oil etc) can cause vaginal irritation and are not recommended for use with latex condoms.
With irritation in mind also be careful with lubricants containing additives for warming or flavour, as these may irritate a vagina. We stress the word ‘may’ as majority of people will not have a problem, and they may be fabulous for you and your sexual adventures. So just take a few seconds pre-use and do a spot test on a small patch of skin to help find any reactions.
The main differences between water-based and silicone-based personal lubricants with respect to vaginal dryness are:
Water-based lubricants are absorbed by the outer layers of the skin. With the correct osmolality this can provide a moisturising or hydrating impact on your vaginal tissue, helping with elasticity and reducing friction. However all water-based lubricants will become tacky while using them. The better the quality of water-based lube the longer this takes to happen.
Tip: add a couple of drops of water to free up the grip, or try a different water-based lube, or try a silicone-based lube.
Silicone-based lubricants are particularly suitable for the most extremely sensitive skin / mucosa as they are not absorbed into the skin cells. Silicone molecules remain on the surface providing a long-lasting lubrication with a silky smooth feeling until you decide to wash it off. Our silicone based lubes do not contain preservatives, are allergy-friendly and dermatologically excellent.
In summary, water-based lubes are great for re-hydrating, while silicone-based lubes are amazing for physical activity such as sex, swimming, cycling etc. You may find your vaginal dryness treatment is a combination of both of these lubes: water-based for everyday use assisting with hydration and elasticity, while applying a silicone lubricant for extra physical activities when you really don’t want the lubricant to wear out.
How to Apply Personal Lubricant for Vaginal Dryness During Everyday Use?
Everyday application will get faster over time (or slower if you like), but even to begin with it’s rather quick and extremely easy.
Just wash your hands, put a couple of drops of lubricant on your fingers, and gently rub around the outer area of your vagina. When ready, add a couple of extra drops to your finger and slip your finger into your vagina and spread the lubricant around.
This lubricant can be silicone or water based, we recommend water for its hydrating properties but this will require reapplication more often than silicone lubricant. You may also want to choose silicone for allergy or activity reasons.
How to Apply Personal Lubricant for Vaginal Dryness When Having Sex?
Now this one is the one you’re probably a little afraid of, but don’t be. Applying lubricant can be a very intense and sexy part of foreplay, a time when your partner really gets to explore with you.
This exploring could be your partner gently drizzling the lubricant onto your vagina then spending time watching while either of you massages it in. This is a tease for both of you and can be great if your partner is having erectile difficulties as it aids in reducing the anxiety. Watching you masturbate can teach your partner what you like, and knowing how to give you an orgasm without the use of their penis can be a massive emotional relief for many people.
Another sensual way to apply your lubricant if your partner has a penis is to put a few drops in your hand and start stroking and massaging the penis. When you are ready to go further, you may want to add a drop extra to your vagina before climbing onto that penis and seeing where things go.
Never be afraid to stop and add a little more, especially if the lubricant is water-based it can get sticky. The better the quality the longer they last, but a sprinkle of water will free up the grab!
Never be afraid to stop all together and try non-penetrative sex. This is extremely hot! The main thing to remember is your partner wants to connect with you and this doesn’t need to be a sexual connection alone. So make sure that connection is not blocked of by sexual issues. Communicate and find ways through the issues together.
If you choose not to communicate and you block your partner out, they’ll naturally arrive at their own conclusions about why sex isn’t working for you both. These conclusions will often be self-focused and wrong believing the disconnection is due to a lack of love, or lust, or their bedroom ability… So if you care for your partner as much as you think you do, show this love by communicating and not letting them go through this emotional anguish of not knowing what has gone wrong.
You may be pleasantly surprised with how good your sex life can be when you work on thinking outside the box with your partner. Opening your mind to better foreplay and a less rigid definition of sex, that is, sex not just being penetrative intercourse, is sure to make you wish you had experimented much earlier.
Ways to Make Sex with Vaginal Dryness Easier?
Most of the time a bit of lubricant will make sex feel amazing, but if penetrative sex is still painful, don’t do it!
This certainly doesn’t mean sex is off the menu, it just means you’re going to ‘plate up’ a little differently.
- Step one – talk with your partner so they know what is going on
- Step two – think about sex outside the box together
- Step three – go to town.
Talk To Your Partner
No one is a mind reader. If you care for your partner, then talk with them about what you are feeling. You do not need to know the answers, or the reasons, or anything. Just be honest and make sure they know this isn’t due to them.
Let your partner know you still think they are very sexy and you want to explore other ways to connect. Let them know you would like to explore your relationship with non-penetrative sex.
If you’re feeling a little embarrassed about the conversation or your thoughts, just say so. Give room in the conversation for them to step out of their comfort zone also.
Think Outside the Box
Things you may traditionally call foreplay, such as deep kissing, wandering hands and oral sex are forms of non-penetrative sex. Good foreplay is often lost in long term relationships as with familiarly comes a hot pursuit for the genitals. Sometimes we forget to ring that doorbell a few times before entering.
This is a time to use as a new and exciting chapter, as a chance to learn to linger longer and really enjoy your partner. A chance to bring back the old foreplay and learn how to take it all the way to orgasm.
Think sexy, do you know of anyone that wouldn’t find watching their partner masturbate orgasmic? Well rubbing lube onto your vulva while laying on your back and your legs open is a site your partner will climax with while masturbating. It’s extremely hot and sexy.
Sure joint masturbation may be hard to ask for, especially if you’re a ‘sex with the lights out’ sort, but we’re very confident your partner wants it. If eye contact is hard to start with, drop your head of the edge of the bed. We guarantee over time you’ll both enjoy watching!
Explore oral sex more, giving each other beautiful pleasure, or just one of you enjoying all the delightful pleasure. Mix it up with flavoured lubricants and maybe some dress ups.
Maybe you do not want your genitals touched at all and that’s ok, you can still be sexy and sensual. Stimulate your partner’s skin, stimulate your own skin. Use ticklish strokes or old fashioned passionate kisses. Keep those kisses going over every part of your partner; giving sexual pleasure can be just a rewarding as receiving it.
And don’t forget the anus you both have one and it’s orgasmic. Butt sex is often left alone because it’s taboo, but this is your bedroom, your relationship, and your connection.
Tip: Butt sex requires lots of lube and never put anything in there that doesn’t have a flared base.
If neither of you have experienced anal sex before, don’t just go crazy and charge in. Anal sex takes preparation, time, and it also takes many forms. Keep in mind if experiencing pain with vaginal sex, you may find anal is a no go for you. But you may find it’s a new and exciting world being opened for your partner.
Don’t think if your partner has a penis they will not enjoy anal stimulation. They more than likely will, but just like any new venture it will take time and understanding. Also keep in mind they may actually hate it, so no is no.
We’re preconditioned by society to have a lot of shame and guilt around certain sexual desires, and it can take a lot of work to ensure it’s only you and your partner in the bedroom, not all the social hang-ups. This chapter really comes down to you putting your partner, your pleasure, and your love before society. It’ll take time but it’ll be worth it.
If you are going down the rabbit hole that is anal, we suggest starting with a single finger (ensure your nails are not long or sharp) to begin exploring and work your way to a penis or a dildo (which must have a flared base). This guide will teach you safe and erotic anal play.
Go To Town
It’s show time, time to put your thoughts into practice.
You’ll be nervous, it’s uncharted water. Think of this as a positive, did you ever think you would get that first kiss again? Did you ever think you would be learning the unknown about a partner again? This is new and exciting, and you’re safe with someone you love.
Enjoy the journey.
Are There Lubricants For People With Allergies?
Yes we have lubricants that suit people with allergies, suffer from neurodermatitis, highly sensitive skin, and are preservative free.
We recommend pjur med PREMIUM glide, the ingredients are of such purity they ensure ideal skin compatibility and are confirmed as allergy-friendly and paraben free. Premium Glide is a silicone based lubricant providing a protective film on the skin, without clogging the pores, and leaves behind a silky smooth feeling while ensuring extra-long and sustained lubrication. See: pjur med Premium Glide
Visit Vavven’s full range of body safe lubricants and request a free sample below if you would like to try the pjur med range.
Free pjur med Lubricant Sample Pack
We have a number of wonderful lubricants to help you out and a free sample kit will help you select. Simple fill in the form. If you need any help or have any questions please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
How to Help Your Partner with Vaginal Dryness?
So you think your partner has vaginal dryness and you’re not sure how to help?
Well just the fact you care enough to search for some answers shows us you already have the empathy needed to find the answers with your partner.
The best things you can do are communicate with your partner, be a good listener, be supportive and be patient. Encourage your partner to discuss the topic with their doctor, and try and maintain your connection in ways other than just sex.
If your partner is beginning to fear sex due to pain, they may also try and avoid any contact which normally ends in sex. Try reading to each other, just laying and cuddling, sleeping naked to touch each other’s skin, regularly kissing, and not letting any of these acts lead to sex.
A fear of painful sex can go beyond the physical; it can trigger all sorts of emotions and lead to a pain cycle which may continue even after the pain has been treated. Work on learning to relax together and alone, but this may actually need help from a psychologist or a good sex therapist. Keep the communication open.
Vaginal dryness can be caused by so many things, hence the importance of chatting to a doctor. But any issue we experience with our sexual self is heightened by shame, embarrassment, or the guilt we are taught to carry through society. And yes sometimes this conditioning is stronger than the will to maintain a sexual connection with you while dealing with this massive change. So be mindful that getting your partner to speak opening may take time, but it’s time well spent.
Read the section above on ‘Ways to Make Sex with Vaginal Dryness Easier’, and think of creative ways to help yourselves work through this time.
Standard run of the mill vaginal dryness is still something to discuss with the doctor, but maybe you could be the one that breaks the silence in your next sexual encounter with ‘I grabbed this lube, my mates were talking about how good it feels. Want to try it?’ Keep your partner in mind when selecting the lube; does your partner normally have allergies? Are they vegan? … Vavven lubricant range.
Vaginal dryness caused by menopause could potentially be a big shock for you. This is such a huge change – hormonal, physical and psychological – for the person experiencing it and they need time to come to terms with this new ‘them’ before they can find ways to hold sexual connections tight.
Your partner may not really understand what is happening yet and this is because everyone will experience menopause differently, some will cruise through while others will experience mood alterations, insomnia and hot flushes, to name a few.
Menopause can impact your sex life for a few reasons, a drop in testosterone can cause a lower libido, and drops in oestrogen can cause vaginal dryness.
Yep you guessed it – the best thing you can do is wait, love, listen, be, and encourage your partner to talk with their doctor.
We mention listening a lot, because we’re hardwired to ‘fix’ things. But there are times in life when knowing you are there is really all our partner needs from you.
How does Vaginal Dryness Affect Partners?
Looking after yourself is very important, having your connection with your partner change is scary, and no one enjoys a sense of not being loved.
It’s important you look after yourself emotionally and physically. Work on your own emotional baggage to ensure you’re not trying to make this change about you. Chat with your doctor about these changes and how you are feeling, try to encourage a joint trip to the doctor and show you are both in this together.
Educate yourself by reading and listening. And most of all try and really understand why something is happening, for example, if your partner asks to sleep in a different bed this may be about concern over keeping you awake with hot flushes etc. So don’t jump to the conclusion that it’s about you.
This is your special other and you’ll both survive without sex for a while if needed, but this period will be shortened if you focus on what your special other needs, and not just focus on the loss of sexual connection.
The sexual connection will return with work, the important thing is to maintain your emotional and physical connection through touch and caring. Don’t be afraid to seek help from a range of different areas – sex therapist, psychologist, dietitian, physiotherapist, doctor…
And it’s perfectly normal to still need sexual release without guilt. You do not need your partner for sexual release, although is nice to have them around, we’re sure you’ve got what it takes to really get back in touch with yourself!
Masturbation is great for sexual release, it’s great for health and blood flow, and it’s great for learning what you enjoy. We have amazing products to help you masturbate (which can also work for couples play when everyone is ready). But if you’re not ready for our amazing products just yet, we’re guessing you more than likely have a perfectly good hand, so use it 🙂
Do You Recommend A Sex Therapist?
You bet ya, we love them.
And it’s a pleasure to recommend Cyndi Darnel who is a leading well-being therapists & relationship educator.
Cyndi runs skype, phone, and in person consultations so location isn’t an issue.
We recommend Cyndi because she is empathetic, practical, looks at the whole picture, and is really down to earth.
Cyndi’s website is http://cyndidarnell.com/