If you've been there, then you know: Vaginal dryness is no fun. Uncomfortable dryness can quickly lead to more serious discomfort, from itching and burning to soreness, urinary tract infections (UTIs), bleeding after sex—and a general loss of interest in sex as a result. See? No fun at all.
So how can you stop vaginal dryness in its tracks—or prevent it from ever happening in the first place? It's important to first understand its causes.
Causes of vaginal dryness
Unsurprisingly, the main cause of vaginal dryness is menopause. Women can actually start experiencing vaginal dryness during perimenopause, when regular periods stop and estrogen levels drop.
Estrogen is mainly responsible for maintaining vaginal health, keeping it lubricated and elastic. When there's less estrogen, the thin layer of moisture that typically coats the vaginal walls becomes even thinner, leading to fewer cells secreting moisture. This can extend beyond the vaginal walls to the vulva, causing external irritation.
However, menopause isn't only to blame for these hormonal changes. Estrogen levels can decrease due to:
- Cold and allergy medications
- Excessive stress or exercise
- Hormone therapy
- Immune system disorders, like Sjorgren's syndrome
- Medications, like those for antidepressants
- Treatments like chemotherapy and radiation
It's not enough that vaginal dryness can occur with a decrease in estrogen levels, but it also often accompanies other conditions. Some women experience an increased need to urinate, pain during sex, burning and irritation, or chronic UTIs along with vaginal dryness. When two or more of these similar symptoms occur, it's referred to as genitourinary syndrome of menopause.
Natural tips to prevent vaginal dryness
While options abound for over-the-counter and prescribed medications, there are several effective methods to naturally minimize or prevent vaginal dryness.
- Use natural cleansers. Try products that are formulated without perfumes, deodorants, or dyes. If regular soap on its own won't do the trick, try a natural spray that can offer relief from common conditions like itching, burning, discharge, odor, and soreness.
- Avoid douching. This can irritate the internal and external vaginal area, leading to vaginal dryness. This practice isn't recommended to treat vaginal conditions, nor is it ideal for regular cleaning or maintenance.
- Balance your hormones naturally. Try seed cycling if you're perimenopausal to help promote more balanced hormones.
- Eat nutrient-rich whole foods. There's a host of foods that can encourage a healthy vagina, from cranberries and yogurt to pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate.
- Take your time with sex. Allow for more foreplay before sex so you have time to become aroused, thereby giving your vaginal walls more time to secrete moisture. Masturbation also helps promote healthy, lubricated vaginal tissue.
- Try coconut oil as a natural lubricant. Water- and silicone-based lubricants are perfectly fine, but have you considered what's in your kitchen? Try organic coconut oil (almond, grapeseed, olive, and sunflower oils also work). A little goes a long way here, so test it out to see how it feels.
Try these solutions for optimal vaginal health—naturally!