Sally, a mother of two in her early forties, came to see me with what she described as a “very embarrassing condition.” Although she had already started treatment, she wanted to learn as much about vaginal dryness as possible. She was diagnosed with vaginal dryness after experiencing painful sex for two years. Her marriage was about to come to an end when she finally went to her doctor who advised her that she was not too young for this condition. Her husband did not understand at all as she did not appear “ill” in any way.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada state that about 50% of post-menopausal women have symptoms of vaginal discomfort within 3 years of menopause, which can affect sexuality and quality of life. It is very difficult to desire sex when it is so painful. Also, men do not want to inflict pain on their partners and one can understand how a relationship can break down because of this issue.
Who Can Experience Vaginal Dryness?
Vaginal dryness is the inadequate lubrication of vaginal tissue which can lead to shedding and inflammation of vaginal walls. The vaginal tissues become thin, dry, and less elastic. This certainly can affect:
- Women during the peri-menopausal years (which are the years leading up to menopause)
- Women during menopause and after menopause
- Women who are breastfeeding
- Women being treated for cancer (chemotherapy or hormone therapy) and/or having pelvic radiation treatment
Women in their thirties may also experience vaginal dryness due to fluctuating estrogen levels.
You Are NOT Alone
Vaginal dryness causes itching and burning, and intercourse may be painful. Sally was typical in that her sex life had diminished. She thought she was alone with this condition because none of her friends seemed to be experiencing vaginal dryness, but this is one of those taboo subjects. Sally just wanted to be sure she was “normal” so to speak. I assured her of this and that about one third of women who experience vaginal dryness lose interest in sex. Sally hoped that she could get her relationship back on track and I assured her that once her vaginal dryness was addressed and treated, that her relationship surely could get back to being as sexually satisfying as it once was.
Like many women, Sally felt older because of vaginal dryness and was quite embarrassed. Vaginal dryness is often perceived as a natural part of aging but it is important to recognize it and take action! It is possible for women to get back to their youthful and sexy selves.
Managing and Treating Vaginal Dryness
Women don't need to suffer in silence - there are many treatment options available to help get relief!
Lubricants (like V-Love™)
Women who are experiencing dryness during intercourse or sexual activity may benefit from using a lubricant. Lubricants are typically used before or during intercourse/sexual activity to minimize friction and reduce the pain.
Moisturizers (like Replens®)
For women who are experiencing dryness during intercourse or sexual activity as well as throughout their daily lives, personal moisturizers are a good option to help relieve vaginal dryness. Moisturizers line the wall of the vagina and maintain moisture in the tissue, which helps to provide longer-term relief.
Moisturizers with Hyaluronic Acid which helps to heal vaginal tissues (like RepaGyn®)
In addition to the above, moisturizers that contain hyaluronic acid help to relieve dryness and also helps to promote healing of the vaginal tissues. This healing component is important because when the vagina is dry, it can crack and bleed. Moisturizers with hyaluronic acid can help to repair this damaged tissue. Sally was very happy that once she was diagnosed with vaginal dryness, she was able to pick up the treatment at her pharmacy. I assured Sally that if she adhered to the treatment recommendations, she would be getting back to the bedroom with her husband in no time!