Your vagina needs to stay healthy and lubricated and it does this by producing a fluid to keep the area moist. But what if your body isn’t producing enough of this fluid? Vaginal dryness can be unpleasant so we’ve answered the questions you may have around what causes it and how to treat it.
What is vaginal dryness?
Oestrogen is the hormone that allows your body to create a fluid that lines the vagina to keep it lubricated. This fluid should be thick and elastic and help the vagina to clean itself and stay healthy. Women’s hormones have more of an effect on the body than you may realise, and a lack of oestrogen could be the reason you’re experiencing vaginal dryness. If you aren’t producing enough oestrogen, your body cannot create enough of this lubricating fluid, which can lead to dryness and irritation.
You may be experiencing vaginal dryness if you need to wee more than normal or frequently suffer from urinary tract infections. Sex can become painful, and you may find that your vagina is itchy and sore.
Why is my vagina dry?
You can get dryness if you’re going through or doing any of the following:
● Taking contraceptive pills or antidepressants
● Have had a hysterectomy
● Have had chemotherapy
All of the above can have an impact on the production of oestrogen.
Vaginal dryness is a very common symptom of the menopause, as well as hot flushes, night sweats, decreased sex drive, and palpitations. When a woman is undergoing this change, the ovaries stop releasing eggs and decrease the amount of oestrogen that is being produced on a daily basis. The same thing also occurs when a woman has her womb removed (known as a hysterectomy). In some cases, the ovaries are removed too.
Some medications, such as antidepressants and contraceptive pills, can also reduce the amount of oestrogen your body produces. You should always read the leaflet that comes with your medication to see what the side effects are. You can ask your doctor about swapping tablets if you need to.
If you’re undergoing chemotherapy, or have had the treatment recently, you may find that you’re experiencing some of the main symptoms of the menopause. This is because chemotherapy can affect the ovaries and alter their oestrogen production. You may even find that the menopause starts early following chemotherapy treatment.
Any woman can experience dryness, and it isn’t just caused by the reasons listed above. Stress or a common cold can also be a cause, or your body may not produce enough oestrogen naturally.
Can Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) cause dryness?
BV can be contracted during sex. However, it isn’t considered a sexually transmitted disease. It’s unlikely that you’ll experience vaginal dryness with BV, but other symptoms include smelly, watery discharge that’s an off-white colour or soreness and irritation.
How to prevent vaginal dryness
There are some things you may be able to do yourself to encourage the natural production of fluid in your vagina.
You could try using a vaginal moisturiser. These can usually be applied directly into the vagina to keep it moist. Never put anything inside you that isn’t meant for that purpose, such as petroleum jelly or hand moisturiser.
When you have a shower, avoid scented soaps down there. Instead, choose a feminine wash that doesn’t contain any soaps or colourants. These specially formulated washes will gently moisturise the area and will help to maintain your intimate area’s natural pH.
If you’ve tried either of these remedies but haven’t seen a significant change, or your symptoms get worse, you should book an appointment with a GP. If you’re going through the menopause or have had a hysterectomy, you may be offered hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This therapy can relieve the symptoms of menopause by replacing some hormones that are only being created by your body in low doses. It could help to relieve the symptoms of vaginal dryness.
If the dryness is affecting your daily life, consult your doctor for advice on a suitable course of treatment.
You should see your doctor immediately if your symptoms get worse, the dryness is affecting your daily life, or you find unusual discharge or blood from your vagina.