Vaginal dryness used to be associated with post-menopausal women; however, with increasing numbers of ambitious women partaking in stressful jobs, busy diaries, tired from looking after children etc., finding time for sex and, importantly, to get sufficiently aroused leading up to sex has become a luxury, rather than pure ‘habitual’ animal instinct. As a result, they can take longer to become aroused and this can result in reduced vaginal lubrication. Something that needs to change – for themselves, both their and their partner’s sexual pleasure, their relationships and also to reduce stress levels.
One of the best ways to increase vaginal lubrication and ensure that the body is functioning healthily is to look at the source of the stress; and then to address and resolve it. You should also increase foreplay and try to eat a healthy, well balanced diet, as vitamins and minerals in themselves increase energy and blood flow, aiding healthy reproductive functioning and increasing sex drive.
Medications and lubrications will help but natural, long-term solutions are always preferable. Let’s look at the cause of the problem and the possible solutions....
Vaginal dryness is often associated with post-menopausal women; however, with the pressures of modern life, increasing numbers of younger women are coming forward with the symptoms. It’s commonly associated with…
1. STRESS can play a significant role in reducing vaginal lubrication. Pre-menopausal women should have reasonable levels of estrogen but, when stressed, the body produces less estrogen and the woman can experience a disturbed menstrual cycle. If you’re stressed enough to stop ovulating, which some women do, or it’s contributed to you losing too much weight, the low estrogen levels will contribute to a dry vagina. This can lead to discomfort, reduced sexual arousal and abrasive or painful intercourse, sometimes resulting in irregular bleeding during or after sex.
Why does this happen? The simple reason is that, when you’re stressed - be that physically or emotionally - it’s not a ‘safe’ time for the body to become pregnant. Therefore, perhaps pausing ovulation is a way of the body protecting itself. That’s not a bad thing; however, the consequence can be reduced vaginal lubrication and, as much as the woman might not want to become pregnant, the likelihood is that she will still want to have sex, which is when it can become a problem.
(Note: Either way, it’s very important for women to ovulate and to have a regular period as regular shedding of the womb lining is vital for maintaining healthy vaginal and reproductive health. If you are experiencing a disturbed menstrual cycle, consult your GP for advice.)
2. PSYCHOLOGY. The other reason may be that, if you’re stressed about a big meeting, financial worries or something else, it’s likely that your mind is elsewhere and that can result in reduced arousal. If you’re not in the mood for intercourse, you may produce less lubrication not because you can’t produce it, but rather because there’ll be less of an arousal response.
Why does this happen? Your brain controls your whole body so, naturally, your body and brain physiology will be hugely intertwined. When your brain is stressed, it stops producing hormones that instruct the ovaries to ovulate and release an egg – telling it that ‘It’s not a good time to get pregnant.’ The body is a very primitive being and, evolutionarily, it still doesn’t realize that you may just want to have sex; not necessarily get pregnant.
3. MENOPAUSE. It’s not unusual for post-menopausal women to experience vaginal dryness due to lack of estrogen. Estrogen plays an important role in naturally producing vaginal lubrication and is influenced by ovulation. Therefore, when the body stops ovulating, it makes sense that other related functions such as lubrication will also be effected.
Here are some of the most effective ways to improve vaginal lubrication.
1. RELAX & DE-STRESS. It is possible for your GP to prescribe drugs to induce your ovulation; however the best way is to try to do whatever you can to relax and reduce stress.
2. MEDICATION. Estrogen creams and pessaries can help to naturally increase vaginal secretion.
3. LUBRICANTS. Alternatively, there are a lot of good lubricants on the market that will temporarily prevent vaginal dryness: water-based and oil-based lubricants; some designed purely for intercourse, others to make the vagina feel generally moist – the last type is very popular amongst post-menopausal women in particular. Some of them are very natural. Sylk, for example, is made from kiwi vine gum extract and most of the products are easily available in pharmacies because, as much as they help your body to respond in different ways, they aren’t drugs and therefore don’t actually change the physiology of your body (i.e. what your vagina is doing or producing). Instead, they provide a natural (or artificial depending on the product) gel, which sticks to the vagina, making it feel wet and facilitating intercourse.
(IMPORTANT: If you do choose to use lubricants and are practicing safe sex, make sure that they are condom compatible. Some are not and, if you use them together, the condom will literally fall apart during sex and may result in unwanted pregnancy or STI. As a general rule, water-based lubricants are condom-compatible; oil-based ones are not but that’s not always the case so always read the label first for peace of mind.)
Practicing Safe Sex Post-Menopause
Did you know… Lubrication helps to reduce the risk of STI and other blood borne infections in post-menopausal women? Following the menopause, the vaginal wall becomes thinner, more delicate and more easily traumatised (Vaginal Atrophy). Some women say ‘I cant get pregnant so I don’t need a condom’ but that’s not the case. If you have sex with a new partner and/or aren’t practicing safe sex, and incur a tiny abrasion, this could put you at risk of STIs and other blood borne viruses, even acting as a route for Hepatitis B or C, or HIV. Lubrication can help to prevent this; as will estrogen creams and estrogen pessaries, which improve the quality of the vaginal skin, increasing its resistance to abrasions, as well as lubrication and suppleness. Enjoy yourself but protect yourself too.