Vaginal dryness, irritation, redness and soreness are common symptoms of menopause which affect different women to varying degrees.
During and after menopause, estrogen levels continue to fall gradually until they stabilize at a new lower level. This means that vaginal dryness is usually not experienced until several years after menopause. The vaginal tissue depends on estrogen to keep them moist and healthy.
What happens when there’s no estrogen?
- the vaginal lining (mucosa) becomes thin and easily injured leading to soreness and burning
- the mucus glands which help with lubrication decrease in number leading to slow and poor lubrication when you are sexually excited leading to vaginal dryness
- there is reduction in vaginal blood supply and the vagina shrinks (this is called vaginal atrophy). This causes small wounds which occur during intercourse to heal very slowly because of poor supply of nutrients from the blood leading to vaginal soreness during and after intercourse
- the vagina becomes less acidic so you become more prone to bacterial and yeast infections
- the vulva (the area surrounding the entrance to the vagina) is usually involved in these changes and may become thin, dry and cracked. There may also be redness and irritation.
The result – having sex becomes a nightmare! Your partner may not understand what you’re going through unless you tell him. It will cause less of a strain on your relationship if you explain that that your reluctance to have intercourse is not his fault but because of the vaginal dryness you’re having. So, does this mean you have to give up intercourse? Definitely not! There are various strategies you can use to improve vaginal moisture and lubrication and reduce the discomfort of intercourse.
How to improve vaginal moisture and lubrication
“Use it or lose it!”
– As with many other things in life this also applies to your vagina. Having vaginal intercourse once or twice a week will help your vagina stay moist and healthy and reduce the symptoms of vaginal atrophy. You will also lubricate faster when you’re aroused.
Use a bioidentical, natural estrogen cream
This has a direct effect on the tissues of the vulva and vagina and restores moisture over several weeks. It may take up to 4 weeks for you to notice any improvement in vaginal moisture. If you are applying a bioidentical progesterone cream or progesterone/estrogen combination cream to your skin, you may also notice an improvement in vaginal symptoms.