When it comes to our vaginas, we can be bit shy about the topic — or we panic. Is that itchy feeling a yeast infection? An STD? Or just run-of-the-mill vaginal itchiness? One uncomfortable ailment down there that some women experience is vaginal dryness — and we’re going to demystify it for you.
Like dryness in any other part of your bodies, vaginal dryness isn’t just uncomfortable, but can result in burning sensations and itchiness. A lack of lubrication down there can also make sex a pretty painful experience and even cause some light bleeding. (Ouch!) A dry vagina can also lead to issues with urination, too, including the need to pee more and even more frequent UTIs.
Vaginal dryness can be the result of both psychological and physical reasons. But just because you’re suffering from it, doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it for good — there are ways to get your vagina back to its wet and slippery state! YouBeauty spoke to Columbia professor and gynecologist, Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, as well as acupuncturist and nutritionist, Lyndsay von Miller, about the main causes of vaginal dryness and the best ways to keep it to a minimum.
Causes of Vaginal Dryness:
1. Medications: Certain medications can just suck your body dry, and your vagina specifically is what really gets zapped. Meds like the birth control pill, antihistamines, and even some asthma medications can cause your body to produce far smaller amounts of vaginal lubrication. If you steer away from cold medicine that contain antihistamines, and discuss with your doctor other methods of birth control, and other brand of asthma medication, you may find that your vagina will respond better.
2. Medical problems: According to Dr. Hutcherson, both heart disease and diabetes do a number on your body and can lead to vaginal dryness. Also, women with cancer who receive radiation or chemo treatments to their pelvic area are also susceptible to dryness in that part of their body.
3. Hormonal changes: It’s the decrease in estrogen in a woman’s body that will wreck total havoc on a woman’s vagina. Menopause is a huge event in a women’s life that can feel like the Sahara Desert between her legs. (Apparently hot flashes, incontinence, loss of libido, brittle bones, and all the rest of it isn’t enough!) Also, right after childbirth a woman’s body will see lower levels of estrogen, especially if she chooses to breastfeed.
READ MORE: Menopause: Great Sex Doesn’t End Here
4. Soaps and hygiene products: Breaking news: You don’t need to douche. Your vagina is more than capable of cleaning itself on its own, and douching — especially over-douching — is a one-way ticket to just sucking the life out of your ladybits. Soaps, most specifically fragrant ones loaded with chemicals and dyes, also aren’t doing your vagina any favors. Just wash gently on the external part of your labia.5. Stress and anxiety. If your mind isn’t in tip-top condition, you can’t expect your body to be either. When you’re stressed out or dealing with lots of anxiety, your sexual desire drops and puts the stops on your body’s natural ability to lubricate during sex.
How To Prevent And Treat Vaginal Dryness:
1. Drink lots of water: Hydration is paramount. As Dr. Hutcherson, points out, a big reason for vaginal dryness that’s less talked is dehydration. While water may seem like the first best idea, acupuncturist, Lyndsay von Miller, said the best way to keep your entire body lubed, especially your vagina, is by adding electrolytes to your water. “You want a squeeze of lemon, pinch of sea salt, and a dollop of maples syrup in a 16oz glass of water will do your body well,” she advised.
2. Get some more oils — inside and out: While over-the-counter lube is a great way to keep your vagina wet during intercourse, there are still things you can do on a daily basis to keep your insides moisturized, too. “If you up your oil intakes, you’ll see some positive changes, because oils are great lubricators,” explained von Miller, “by just adding a tablespoon of coconut oil to your morning drink is the simplest way to get your day off on the right foot.”
READ MORE: What’s Your Vagina Supposed to Smell Like?
3. Amp up your foreplay: According to Dr. Hutcherson, the number one reason for vaginal dryness during intercourse is because you’re not getting enough foreplay! Your body may respond well, naturally lubricating itself almost immediately in the beginning of a relationship. But over time, our response to desire changes and more effort is required to get your body to that point of ultimate wetness. Said Dr. Hutcherson:
“As the relationship continues, or after a few months, it begins to take longer for lubrication to occur. And women will need much more time. It is not because she is not interested in sex. It’s because in the beginning of the relationship, there are many chemicals and hormones surging throughout your body when you think about your partner. With time, those hormones begin to decline naturally and without your control. For some women, it may take many minutes (15 or more) of foreplay (kissing, massage, touch, oral stimulation, etc.) to get things going!”
4. Nourish your yin: You can opt for estrogen supplements, if you’d like, or you can go the more holistic approach by eating differently and stocking up on herbs from which your body will really benefit. In Chinese medicine, estrogen deficiency is sometimes correlated with ‘yin deficiency,’ and acupuncture and herbal medicine can address this very effectively,” said von Miller. “A trip to your acupuncturists can help, as they know what herbs are best to nourish your yin. Also, cooked pears are a delicious way to nourish your yin.