There has been lots of talk about the various symptoms of the menopause, from hot flushes to insomnia to brain fog, but one symptom that is often not addressed and spoken about is vaginal dryness.
Although more common in menopausal women, vaginal dryness can also affect women who are on the pill, breastfeeding or who have had cancer treatments or, are on certain medications such as antidepressants.
Consultant Gynaecologist of Luminosa London, Ms Tania Adib takes a look at vaginal dryness, this rarely talked about topic amongst women.
What causes vaginal dryness?
Decreasing oestrogen during menopause means a decrease in blood circulation; the vaginal walls get thinner and less elastic and natural lubrication stops.
Why does it matter?
Yes. Physical and psychological symptoms can result from experiencing vaginal dryness that can affect your health, mental wellbeing and self-confidence:
The reduction in elasticity and protective mucus present in the vagina can give rise to pain during sex, and sometimes a little bleeding is experienced after intercourse if the fragile vaginal wall tears. These symptoms can cause anxiety and difficulty for women to engage in intercourse, placing strain on an otherwise loving relationship.
Cervical smear discomfort
The thinning vaginal wall can make it uncomfortable to have a cervical smear, and bleeding may be caused. Smear tests are advised up to the age of 64 years. The test looks for abnormal cell changes on the cervix. It is important that vaginal discomfort doesn’t dissuade women from continuing to attend these tests, especially if they are sexually active.
Dryness, itchiness or soreness
The reduction in mucus can alter the acidity in the vagina, leading to an imbalance in friendly bacteria, which can cause problems such as recurring bouts of cystitis.
Vaginal dryness can make it painful and sore for some women to exercise; this is detrimental on many levels as it is important to maintain healthy exercise, especially during menopause when women can become prone to osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
How can I resolve vaginal dryness?
Support with Oestrogen
Local oestrogen can be administered into the vagina in the form of a pessary, ring or cream.
The transfer of oestrogen from the vaginal tissues systemically into the bloodstream is negligible, and the impact of the hormone is only delivered locally to tissues such as the vagina, bladder and urethra.
This is a milder form of HRT which can be extremely beneficial not only for symptoms of vaginal dryness and discomfort, but also for bladder problems such as recurrent cystitis, and urinary urgency and frequency, but it will not treat the wider range of menopausal symptoms.
This type of locally delivered HRT is also safe, even for women who have experienced problems such as breast cancer.
Alternatives to HRT
For a hormonal-free approach to combat vaginal dryness and irritation try a combination of:
- Balance hormones – a fermented soy supplement can be used to help gently raise and balance oestrogen when low oestrogen issues are a problem.
- Moisturise – just as we would moisturise our skin, try:
- Replens Vaginal Moisturiser (£11.49, 35g from Superdrug, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Amazon, Lloyds Pharmacy and Boots stores nationwide) which gives hormone-free, long-lasting moisturising relief for up to three days.
- Sea Buckthorn Oil capsules can be helpful to restore the balance of moisture, although it can take four weeks or so to start showing benefits. Try Healthspan Omega 7 Sea Buckthorn Oil, 60 capsules £16.95.
- Laser and radiofrequency treatments – these minimally-invasive treatments heat up the tissue, stimulating the body to rebuild and restore /restructure collagen within the vaginal tissue, relieving vaginal dryness. Radiofrequency energy is another treatment that is delivered via by a wand by a consultant gynaecologist to tighten the inner and outer vaginal area. It works by heating up the tissue and delivering just the right amount of alternating pulses of heating and cooling. By delivering energy to the connective tissue of the vaginal wall, it rejuvenates the cells. As well as laxity, this procedure can also help other conditions. Visit luminosa.london to find out what treatments are on offer.
- Pelvic exercises – daily Kegel exercises are a good idea as they help to improve blood flow to the pelvic area.
- Hydrate – drink plenty of water daily
- Herbal help – cranberry juice can also be helpful if vaginal dryness is contributing to recurring bouts of cystitis as can the herb Uva Ursi (Try A.Vogel Uva Ursi & Echinacea Complex, £10.50, 50ml)
There are actually lots of treatments available to help women with vaginal dryness, so it is really important for women to know that there are effective treatments available which have excellent results.
If you found You don’t have to live with the discomfort of vaginal dryness interesting, you’ll find more about coping with menopausal symptoms on our Women’s Health channel.Tags: menopause, oestrogen, vaginal dryness Last modified: November 11, 2022