Girl talk: Dealing with vaginal dryness
You might think that vaginal dryness is an issue that only women going through menopause have to tackle. Or that younger women only need to worry about vaginal dryness when it comes to sexual activity. But female dryness is actually one of the most common vaginal health issues and there are a number of reasons it can occur– in fact, 23 per cent of Australian women have experienced vaginal dryness, and 62 per cent of those suffering from vaginal dryness experience it at least once a month.. But even more surprisingly, 51 per cent of those who experience vaginal dryness do not use any product to treat it2.
So what does all this mean? Well, it means we need to start talking about vaginal dryness and dispel the stigma that women feel about discussing vaginal health issues. Vaginal dryness can cause physical pain, as well as triggering emotional insecurity and it can even lead to relationship troubles as many women will often avoid intimacy – but it doesn’t have to be that way. In the final instalment of our Girl Talk series, Dr. Althea O’Shaughnessy, board certified OB/GYN with a specialty in Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, provided some answers for our most pressing questions about vaginal dryness.
What causes vaginal dryness?
As we’ve established, vaginal dryness is far more common than you’d think and can start as early as in your 20s. According to Dr O’Shaughnessy, “Vulvovaginal dryness is a condition whereby the external vulvar tissue and the internal vaginal tissue become thin, pale, dry and very fragile, with loss of vaginal secretions and elasticity. This makes them vulnerable to trauma, bleeding and infection and is most bothersome during sex.”
The biggest cause of vaginal dryness is usually a reduction in estrogen levels. “Estrogen is a female hormone that helps keep vaginal tissue healthy by maintaining normal vaginal lubrication, tissue elasticity and acidity,” explains Dr O’Shaughnessy. “Estrogen levels can fall for a number of reasons – child birth, breast feeding, menopause and perimenopause, which is a transition time before menopause that commonly occurs in women in their 40s but can occur as early as their 30s. Some of the symptoms that are commonly associated with perimenopause are menstrual irregularity. But one of the most common symptoms is vaginal dryness.”
Vaginal dryness can also be the result of external factors. “Other common causes of dryness are taking certain medications like birth control pills and antihistamines, as well as dehydration, stress and certain hormonal conditions that lead to low estrogen levels,” says Dr O’Shaughnessy.
Should I be concerned if I experience vaginal dryness?
While vaginal dryness isn’t typically an indicator of anything serious, it’s important to seek treatment. “If you experience vaginal dryness, I urge you to talk to your doctor,” advises Dr O’Shaughnessy. “But you should also talk to your girlfriends about it – you’ll be amazed at the number of women that share your experience and are seeking solutions.”
It’s also important to discuss it with your partner. “When sex becomes painful due to vaginal dryness, many women will withdraw from intimacy or suffer in silence through painful intercourse because they don’t want their partners to know,” says Dr O’Shaughnessy. “But there’s nothing better for intimacy than open communication.”
How can I minimise vaginal dryness?
Vaginal dryness can be most bothersome to women during sex. “Many women use lubricants but they find them sticky and messy and they don’t like how it interrupts the moment,” explains Dr O’Shaughnessy.
Sex should be one of the most enjoyable parts of life, not painful or uncomfortable. With this in mind, the team at Vagisil decided to create dryness solutions that would truly meet the needs of women, without ruining the mood. The Vagisil ProHydrate Plus Internal Hydrating Gel provides long-lasting relief from vaginal dryness and feels like your own natural moisture. “It’s made from hyaluronic acid which is a natural moisturising agent that already exists in your body,” says Dr O’Shaughnessy. “It’s also bioadherent so it stays where you put it.”
The Vagisil ProHydrate External Hydrating Gel helps provide instant relief from vaginal dryness, and can be used daily to provide hydration and comfort during sex. “Before intimacy, you can use it right at the point of entry for natural feeling lubrication,” says Dr O’Shaughnessy. “There are also no added dyes, perfumes, preservatives or estrogen, and regular use can make your intimate skin feel healthier.”
Another great product for vaginal dryness is the Vagisil ProHydrate® Plus Intimate Wash, which provides scientifically-proven moisturisation. Gentle enough to use every day, it can help to keep intimate skin hydrated, supple and more comfortable.
Do you feel comfortable talking about intimate health with your partner?
2 152-116 Combe Feminine Care Wave 2, January 2016