Feeling a little parched? Contrary to what you might have heard, vaginal dryness is incredibly common and can occur for a variety of reasons. It’s usually associated with menopause, and most products intended to help are marketed towards older women, but so many factors are in play when it comes to our bodies, and vaginal dryness can come and go at any age.
While vaginal dryness is rarely talked about, when it is, it’s usually pretty discouraging. So we're here to help destigmatize this very common experience, and let you know that dryness is nothing to be ashamed of – and more importantly, there are ways to help your body get the waters flowing when the time is right.
What is vaginal dryness?
The vagina basically has a life of its own (which is why we love it and honor it so much), including its own unique PH range, microbiome, and varying ranges of secretions depending on your cycle, hormones, and blood flow happening in the genitals. It secretes moisture to coat the vaginal walls, creating an alkaline environment that is primed for reproduction. In the modern day and age, we also know this moisture supports pleasure and comfort during sex (even when reproduction is not on the table).
However, when the cells and glands that secrete moisture stop doing their thing, vaginal dryness ensues, which can lead to pain during sex as well as general discomfort, often making sexual pleasure feel out of reach.
What causes vaginal dryness?
Vaginal dryness is largely connected to changes in the hormonal production of estrogen. When estrogen levels drop, the vaginal walls thin, which often means less moisture and lubrication. When there’s less estrogen, there’s also less sexual arousal – because this queen hormone is responsible for boosting blood flow to the vagina. While menopause is the most obvious cause, there are many circumstances that can affect the body’s natural hormonal balance, making your vagina feel like a point of tension rather than a sensual pleasure center.
- Postpartum. Many women experience postpartum symptoms not dissimilar to menopause — hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. That’s because estrogen and progesterone levels drop like crazy after giving birth. Breastfeeding also decreases estrogen levels so as to allow for milk production.
- Stress, anxiety, and depression. Moods aren’t just abstract feelings or mental states. Factors like stress and anxiety directly affect hormone production. Stress causes the body to release excess amounts of cortisol, which is a hormone that keeps the body in fight-or-flight mode. This overproduction of cortisol interferes with estrogen and oestrogen production, resulting in low libido and vaginal dryness.
- Cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation. Cancer treatments immediately lessen the amount of estrogen produced in the ovaries, causing vaginal dryness as a side effect.
- Medication. Medications that treat allergies, colds, and asthma can have the unfortunate side effects of vaginal dryness due to an overall drying effect on the body. Also, some forms of birth control and antidepressants, like SSRIs, can contribute. If you’re experiencing sexual side effects from your medication, that’s a big deal! Pleasure is essential to wellness, so don’t try to gut it out. Consult with your healthcare provider about adjusting your regimen if you need to.
- Lack of arousal. This seems obvious, but women have been told by society that their bodies should always be ready to have sex, rather than understanding that dryness can be a signal that they’re not aroused (and therefore not lubricated enough to enjoy pleasurable sex). Our bodies aren’t always ready, and sometimes they take a little while to warm up. Being patient and giving yourself time to deeply explore what feels good can help you access your arousal – mental and physical.
How to treat vaginal dryness
It’s inevitable that the vagina will experience changes as we get older, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to prevent dryness and even treat it.
- Functional medicine. If you’re experiencing symptoms of chronic vaginal dryness pre-menopause, consider working with a holistic practitioner like a Naturopath, Functional Medicine Doctor, and/or Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor. Working with a practitioner who can look at your hormonal levels from a 360-degree purview will allow you to tackle dryness from the root cause.
- Diet and exercise. More and more, we’re learning the effects diet and exercise have on modulating our immune systems and keeping inflammation at bay. Consider researching an anti-inflammatory diet that can help complement efforts to balance your hormones naturally.
- Lifestyle. Are you tired of people telling you to meditate? It does get a little repetitive these days – but meditation is actually one of the most effective (and free) ways to naturally lower stress and anxiety levels over the long haul. Having a daily practice — even just for five minutes — can significantly boost your mood and lower inflammation.
- Lubrication. Needing lube is nothing to be ashamed of. Foria is a big fan of using lube, with or without vaginal dryness, to help deepen sexual intimacy, enhance arousal, and let you go for longer during sex. Our Sex Oil with CBD is as simple and clean as it comes (pun intended) with 400mg of broad-spectrum CBD and MCT coconut oil. We recommend pairing our lube with our Awaken Arousal Oil, the ultimate pleasure pregame that is designed to boost blood flow to the genitals for enhanced arousal and next-level pleasure.
While vaginal dryness can be uncomfortable, it presents a meaningful opportunity to listen to your body’s natural rhythms. Not only can you sense what might be out of balance, but your vagina is also an incredible resource for checking in with your state of mind, subconscious emotional cues, and overall wellbeing.
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