Sex should be a pleasing, and comfortable experience, so when our bodies inhibit our ability to truly enjoy intimate moments, it can be frustrating and discouraging–which may only further inhibit our ability to relax and enjoy the experience. Vaginal dryness is a condition that affects a significant number of women, but older women are particular susceptible. Vaginal dryness impacts more than half of post-menopausal women between the ages of 51 and 60. During menopause, women produce lower levels of the hormone estrogen. As a result, vaginal walls lose their elasticity, become tight and fragile, and are less able to accommodate the flexibility needed for comfort during sexual intercourse. In the most serious of cases, the vaginal walls can even tear or bleed during sex. If you are among the millions of women suffering from vaginal dryness, read the tips below to learn how to ease your symptoms and take back your comfort and confidence in the bedroom.
- Foreplay. It may sound like a simple solution, but too often the many constraints on our time cause us to rush sexual intercourse. Without proper foreplay, we don’t allow our bodies the time necessary to properly self-lubricate and prepare for penetration. By increasing the length of foreplay, a woman can naturally improve her moisture levels and reduce dryness.
- Vaginal lubricants. These over-the-counter products are intended to be used during sexual intercourse to help ease repeated penetration by temporarily providing a more slippery surface. Avoid products that boast unnecessary features like flavors and scents, and choose a product that will meet your needs by improving your comfort.
- Vaginal moisturizers. For many women suffering from vaginal dryness, a simple over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer applied regularly can greatly improve wetness and comfort during sex. Similar to body lotion, vaginal moisturizers can be used as a maintenance product to reduce dryness and improve daily moisture levels.
- Vaginal estrogen treatment. The most effective treatment for moderate to severe cases of vaginal dryness is a vaginal estrogen treatment. By increasing estrogen levels in the body, vaginal walls are restored to their pre-menopausal thickness, and will produce greater levels of vaginal mucus and secretions. There are three treatment options for vaginal estrogen. Treatment can be obtained in the form of an oral tablet, vaginal cream, or vaginal ring, which lasts for three months before needing to be replaced. Women at high risk for breast cancer should avoid estrogen supplements, especially if taking aromatase inhibitors to lower their breast cancer risk.
- Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERM). SERMs are taken orally to help restore vaginal moisture and mucous. Ask your GYN if a SERM treatment may be right for you, but know that such oral treatments may increase your risk of blood clots and hot flashes.
- Vaginal dilators. In the most serious cases of vaginal dryness, the treatments above many not be enough. Prescription vaginal dilators are soft plastic rods in gradual sizes, ranging from three millimeters to ten millimeters in diameter. Their repeated insertions help allow for a gradual increase in overall vaginal dilation capabilities.
Most importantly, you don’t have to shy away from sex. When sex becomes uncomfortable, a natural reaction can be to avoid intercourse – and the pain associated. However, continued sexual activity, including masturbation, allows the vagina to maintain a greater level of elasticity over time. By continuing to be sexually active (safely of course!) you can slow and lessen the signs of vaginal drying, even during menopause.