Menopause – Vaginal Soreness, Dryness and Irritation – Causes and treatments/ solutions


vaginal dryness, vaginal moistureVaginal 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.

vaginal dryness, sexual problems, sexual frustrationThe 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.
Emerita Phytoestrogen Body Cream with Black Cohosh, 2-Ounce Tube

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.

If you have a past history of breast or uterine cancer, avoid estrogen.
liquid silk water based lubricant

Keep a lubricant handy

A water-based lubricant should be close to your bed in a drawer or night stand. This will make sex more comfortable while you work on naturally increasing vaginal moisture. It will also relieve anxiety about painful intercourse which can kill your urge for sex.Avoid using oily lubricants like baby oil and petroleum jelly which are not healthy for the vagina and are difficult for the body to remove. Some good ones include I-D Glide, Liquid Silk and Pjur Original Bodyglide

replens vaginal moisturizer for vaginal dryness

Use a vaginal moisturizer

How do intimate vaginal moisturizers work?
You (should) use a moisturizer to keep your face looking younger, healthy and more supple. A vaginal moisturizer works in pretty much the same way to replace vaginal moisture that is not there because of the low estrogen. It helps to plump up the vaginal lining and coats the cells with moisture. This makes the inside of the vagina less fragile and less likely to be irritated and sore.

Vaginal moisturizers work gradually so you may not feel the effects immediately. They are not the same as vaginal lubes (lubricants).

Differences between intimate vaginal moisturizers and vaginal lubes:

  • A feminine moisturizer maintains a constant level of vaginal wetness or moisture if used regularly because the effects are long lasting. Intimate lubricants don’t provide long lasting moisture and dry up quite fast.
  • Vaginal moisturizers are usually used about 3 times a week to maintain vaginal moisture as the effect lasts for about 72 hours. Lubricants need to be applied each time you have intercourse.
  • Some vaginal moisturizers are solid and melt when you put them inside the vagina. Vaginal lubes are usually wet from the start.
  • Vaginal moisturizers are usually more expensive than vaginal lubricants.

If you’re using a vaginal moisturizer, you can still use a vaginal lubricant to get even more vaginal wetness if you need it.

Some good vaginal moisturizers

  • Carlson Key-e Suppositories
  • Replens Long-lasting Vaginal Moisturizer
  • Intima Feminine Moisturizer

Take lots of essential fatty acids (EFA)

These include:

  • Omega-3 (fish and flaxseed oil ),
  • Omega-6 (evening primrose oil and borage oil) and
  • Omega-9 (olive oil).

They help to keep the vagina healthy and also help your body produce hormones. The best source of these fatty acids is oily fish like fresh salmon. Others are tuna, mackerel and halibut. If you can’t eat enough fish to get a good supply of these EFAs take a good supplement with a combination of all these fatty acids .

Use Vitamin E

The natural form of Vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) rather than the synthetic form (dl-alpha tocopherol) can be very useful for vaginal dryness. Puncture one 400 IU capsule 2 or 3 times and insert it into the vagina. You can do this daily and gradually reduces the frequency as your dryness improves. Alternatively, you can use vitamin E suppositories like Carlson Vitamin E suppositories.

Avoid using harsh soaps and scrubbing your vulva vigorously

If you must use a mild baby soap and rinse generously, otherwise a feminine wash for sensitive skin may help. Avoid douching which can change the balance in the vagina.

 

Don’t let vaginal dryness wreck your love life. Put the sizzle back into your relationship with these top 10 lubricants.

Relieve vaginal dryness and irritation with vaginal lubricantsVaginal dryness and irritation can hit at any time. You don’t have to be going through menopause to have vaginal dryness. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, anxiety and medication can dry you out and make sex very uncomfortable if not downright painful.

There are many popular lubricants that are widely used. Unfortunately, some of them contain potentially harmful substances. Read about stuff you should avoid in vaginal lubricants and moisturizers.

Here is a list of some great sexual lubricants. Remember that different women and couples have different needs and preferences. You may have to experiment to find the perfect lube for you.

Water-based lubricants

    • ID GlideID Glide Regular – this is a very popular lubricant.
      Pros:
      • It is water-based, has no flavor and no fragrance.
      • It is non-sticky and once applied, lasts a long time so usually you will not need to reapply.
      • A little goes a long way so apply sparingly.
      • Being water-based, ID Glide will not break down latex or toys and will not stain sheets.
      • ID glide is easy to clean up.
      • It is not expensive so it is a good option if you’re looking for a good water-based lubricant.

      Cons::

      • Contains parabens and glycerine.
    • Astroglide – this is one of the most popular lubricants and has been around for a long time.
      Pros:
      • Water based so will not harm latex.
      • Easy to clean up.

      Cons:

      • Contains parabens and glycerine.
      • May need reapplying or a use a few drops of water to maintain slipperiness.
    • Sliquid Organics Natural Gel Lubricant
      Pros:

      • All natural, gentle lubricant.
      • Thicker than most water-based lubricants.
      • Made with certified organic botanicals.
      • Does not contain glycerine or parabens.

      Cons:

      • May need to reapply.
    • Slippery Stuff Gel Personal Lubricant – This is another water-based lubricant that has been around for a long time.
      Pros:

      • Natural lubricant with kiwi fruit extract.
      • Long-lasting lubrication.
      • Natural feel.
      • Tasteless and fragrance-free.
      • Does not contain glycerine.
      • Non-staining.

      Cons:

      • May need to reapply.
    • Sliquid H2O Natural Intimate Lubricant
      Pros:
      • Free of parabens and glycerine.
      • Feels natural.
      • Condom-friendly and latex safe.
      • Vegan friendly.

      Cons:

      • May need to reapply.
  • Pre-seed fertlity-friendly lubricant is formulated to resemble cervical mucus and semen. It provides a safe environment for sperm for couples who are trying to conceive. It is supplied with applicators so that the lubricant can be inserted high into the vagina.
    Pros:
    • Sperm friendly water-based lubricant.
    • Not messy to use because of the applicators.
    • Does not contain glycerine.

    Cons:

    • Contains parabens. The Pre-seed site says that the lubricant contains levels of parabens that have been found to be safe for human use.
    • It is expensive. However, some couples may not need to use a whole applicator full of lubricant each time which may make the tube last longer.

Hybrid lubricants

These are water-based lubricants with a little silicone added for extra glide.

  • Read reviews of Liquid Silk Personal Lubricant

    Liquid Silk Personal Sensual lubricant
    Pros:

    • Has a moisturizing effect so particularly helpful for postmenopausal women.
    • Feels natural.
    • Won’t harm toys.
    • Easy to clean up.
    • Relatively cheap.

    Cons:

    • May dry up a little faster than some other lubricants so may need to reapply.
    • Contains glycerine and parabens.

Silicone Lubricants

    • Read reviews of Eros Original Body Glide Lubricant

      Pjur Eros Bodyglide Lubricant
      Pros:

      • Very concentrated so a little goes a long way.
      • Fragrance-free.
      • No taste.
      • Safe for latex including condoms.
      • Oil-free
      • Conditions and moisturizes skin. Will not block pores.
      • Also good for massages because it doesn’t get sticky.
      • No parabens or glycerine.

      Cons:

      • May stain sheets.
    • Swiss Navy Silicone Lubricant
      Pros:
      • Made with high grade silicone
      • Tasteless and odorless.
      • Does not contain parabens or glycerine.

      Cons:

      • Condom safe
      • May degrade silicone toys over time.
  • Wet Platinum Premium Lubricant
    Pros:
    • Made from premium grade silicone.
    • Long lasting and economical.
    • Stays wet even in water or hot tub.
    • Odorless
    • Doesn’t get sticky.
    • Can be used for body massage.
    • Safe for condoms.

    Cons:

    • Some people have issues with the design of the bottle. Read the solution here.
    • May stain sheets (stains can be removed with Oxiclean or similar products.)

    Things to note about sexual lubricants:

    • The good ones are very effective and usually quite cheap. That means you can afford to buy more than one. Keep them handy on both sides of the bed (after all, you never know which side you’ll end up on!), in the bathroom and anywhere else things are likely to get steamy.
    • Each tube should last you a while unless you’re bathing in the stuff.
    • A little goes a long way. Too much and all sensation tends to disappear.
    • Water-based lubricants are generally better for vaginal health and kinder to latex e.g. in condoms and toys.
    • Water-based lubricants tend to dry up much faster than silicone ones. Many can be reactivated with a few drops of water without applying more lubricant.
    • Silicone lubricants tend to stain sheets etc. This can usually be washed out with Oxiclean or similar stain removing detergents.
    • Silicone lubricants can also be used for other things like body massage unlike water-based ones.

natural oils for vaginal dryness, soreness and irritation

Natural oils for vaginal dryness

Coconut oil

Coconut oil should be a staple in your kitchen and medicine cabinet! Coconut oil contains lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid and is antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, and antibacterial. It improves the health of your hair, skin, heart, immune system, digestion, and can aid in weight loss. Apply a small amount of coconut oil directly on the entrance to the vagina everyday, before having sex (it makes a great substitute for store-bought lube), or whenever you are feeling irritation. Eating a teaspoon or so a day will help clear up and prevent other health issues. An excuse to eat more tasty and healthy fat!

 Olive oil

Olive oil is another super healthy oil. Apply this directly to the opening of your vagina on a daily or as needed basis. Pour it over your salads or other foods. Avoid cooking with it though, as it has a low smoke-point.

 Vitamin E

Vitamin E oil capsules can be inserted directly  into the vagina for relief from dryness. Simply find a capsule with no scratches, insert it into your vagina with clean hands, and your vagina will absorb the contents of the capsule. You can also pierce a capsule and rub some of the oil onto the opening of your vagina. Vitamin E oil has been known to strengthen the vaginal lining and increase flexibility.

 Calendula oil

Calendula oil, known for it’s healing and soothing properties for all types of ailments, has been known to heal the tissues of the vaginal wall. Calendula contains a high amount of flavenoids, which protect cells from free radicals. It increases blood flow to the area, which speeds the healing process. You can find some at your local herb store, or online.

 Comfrey oil

Comfrey oil, another time-tested herbal oil ally, can also help the vagina strengthen and produce its own natural oils. It is a powerful plant that contains allantoin, which has been known to aid in the healing of bone and tissue. Another product you can find at your local herb shop or the Internet.

 Evening primrose oil

Evening primrose oil capsules can be taken orally or vaginally for relief from dryness. This oil contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that is required for growth, development, and healing of the body. It also helps to relieve many other symptoms associated with menopause.

 Essential oils

Essential oils such as jasmine, geranium, lavender, clary sage, neroli, anise, fennel, cypress, angelica, coriander, sage, peppermint, lemon, rose, and chamomile all contain hormone-like substances that are helpful during menopause. They are also soothing when mixed with one of the above-mentioned oils (ie coconut oil) and applied to the vagina. Use only a few drops, and never place essential oils directly on the skin without carrier oil.

 Sweet almond oil

Sweet almond oil can be mixed with any of the above essential oils for applying directly to the vagina. It is one of the richest natural sources of Vitamin E.

Natural cures can be much easier and inexpensive than a lot of pharmaceutical medications, and have hardly any side effects. If dryness persists or worsens, it is important to see a doctor or certified naturopath for further assistance and advice.

Sex is an important part of your life. Regular intercourse will make you healthier, happier and you will live longer. Don’t give up on it. Many post-menopausal women enjoy active and pleasurable sex with their partners. With care and perseverance, your sex life may be better now than it ever was.

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17 Comments

  1. I am currently in chemo for breast cancer.stage 1.lymph nodes clear.but 100% positive for Hertu..which basically means I caught it very very early (self examine ladies!!!) but it was a very aggressive estrogen based cancer..the chemo is forcing me through a rapid menopause..and while I was prepared for the nausea and discomfort of the drugs..no one told me about the symptoms of menopause I would feel at the same time..sex..with a man who adores me..has become very painful..now I learn that the dryness and bruising is very normal as my estrogen/ovaries are being nuked!! So! I cannot take estrogen creams..have been told NO antioxidant supplements as the chemo process uses the oxident process to kill the cancer cells..so my question is..sorry for the ignorance..is E not a viable solution for me..i need something to help build back moisture so I di not bruise so readily.my advice from what this journey has taught me…check your Tatas monthly!!! Please!! And Therese GET OUT! Of that relationship. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship for 25!!! Years thinking it was the best I could do!! There is life after you leave..the first step is the hardest..but love yourself enough to go. I am sure that marriage created my cancer!!

    • I hope that all goes well for you and i am glad you got out of that nasty relationship. You deserve a lot better.

  2. I recently have had major issues, hot flashes, night sweats, memory loss and others but I wasn’t aware of the vaginal issue. I’ve been to my doctor 2 times to be tested for infection, but it came back negative. I haven’t had intercourse in almost 2 weeks and one minute I’m fine and the next minute I’ll experience a pain, vaginally, that last for some time. It seems to get better when I drink a lot of water. What can I do to make this stop? It is really related to menopause?

    • Pappy – I’m right there with ya. Over a the short period of 1 or 2 weeks, I went from fine to OW!!! what the hell is going on?!?!? Gee thanks body!!! So here I am looking for help and answers. I don’t want to do Estrogen, I just want this to stop. 🙁 only other symptoms I’m having are mild “too warm” flashes. I was soooo excited the Aunt Flow didn’t come to visit anymore and in less than 2 months I get THIS 🙁 Sheesh!!!

  3. I use Super Critical Omega 7. It supports the mucous membrane of the vaginal. It really lubricates the vaginal walls. I take 2 to 3 softgels daily. I space them out 1 in the morning, 1 in the afternoon and one in the evening. I also take fish oil and ultimate Flora Vaginal Support, it supports vaginal and urinary health.

  4. Thanks for the great resource. May I only add a few natural treatments I saw on the internet: natural progesterone cream, soy, vitamin E and herbs like black cohosh, dong quai and promensil seem to ease the menopause symptoms.
    resource- natural menopause treatment

  5. My comment is for Teresa – why on earth would you even think of having sex with a man who ‘doesn’t care if I hurt or bleed or have any problems in fact the discomfort turns him on more’?

    Any man who gets turned on by his partner’s pain or bleeding is a sadist, IMO, and should be avoided like the plague. Sex is supposed to be pleasurable for both parties, not something that women endure while their husbands enjoy themselves. It’s one thing having sex and feeling a bit of discomfort due to age or whatever, it’s something else to have a husband who doesn’t care or – even worse – enjoys causing his wife pain.

    For goodness sake, tell him you’ll have sex when you find a way to do so without pain or bleeding AND only if you feel like it. If he’s not happy, then tell him to take a hike. You only get one life and you don’t need to spend it pandering to the wishes of an insensitive oaf. (I wish I had your husband here with me for half an hour – not for sex, you understand, but for a few plain home truths.)

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