Healthspan Staff November 13, 2018

While going through the menopause you may find that you experience vaginal dryness, you may find this embarrassing to discuss with your spouse or doctor but you’re not alone and there’s different products that can ease this symptom during the change of life. 

Many women experience vaginal dryness as a consequence of going through menopause, this and the tightening of the vagina are both extremely common but that’s not to say this daily discomfort needs to be lived with.

There are different creams, gels and ointments that could aid in giving you some additional comfort day-to-day where you previously haven’t had it since going through the change.

So why does it happen?

Vaginal dryness naturally occurs due to decreased levels of oestrogen during the menopause; however, this isn’t the only reason that dryness happens.

You can suffer with this if you’ve recently gone through childbirth or are breastfeeding as oestrogen temporarily decreases; you’re not aroused enough before sex; and some types of contraception like the combined pill or contraceptive injection can occasionally be the cause.

There are different problems associated with having a dry vagina: 1

  • vaginal irritation, discomfort, itchiness or a burning sensation
  • discomfort during sex
  • a reduced sex drive
  • difficulty getting aroused and reaching orgasm
  • the surface of the vagina looks pale and thin
  • narrowing or shortening of the vagina
  • needing to pee more often than usual
  • repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs)

What can you do to help?

One of the best ways to treat dryness and atrophic vaginitis is to ensure you keep well lubricated.

Moisturiser

Moisturisers should be used regularly regardless of the level of sexual activity you’re engaging in; this helps maintain moisture being absorbed into the skin and lining the vaginal walls. They can help reduce symptoms like dryness, itching, burning and irritation. These can have longer-lasting effects in comparison to other treatments and the NHS suggests water-based moisturisers as oil or petroleum-based products can damage latex condoms and sometimes create further irritation.2

Lubricant

These products are liquid or gel based that offer immediate relief from vaginal dryness. You may find choosing the right lubricant as you must look for ingredients that could cause irritation; avoid perfumes, artificial colours or herbal extracts as these can create further discomfort.

Lubes can also be used when getting intimate with your partner as this will keep your vagina moist and can help rekindle your sex life as it’ll keep discomfort to a minimum and allow you to enjoy it again!

What to look for?

Lube can have many different ingredients; not all are beneficial to you or your intimate area. So, what should you avoid?

Avoid Why?
Nonoxynol Not only is this chemical in spermicides, it can also kill good and bad bacteria in the vagina which can lead to an infection
Petroleum (or based ingredients) As they’re sticky they can stay in your vagina longer than welcome to; it can also alter the pH balance which increases the chance of infection
Chlorhexidine gluconate It’s antibacterial, however you may experience irritation or inflammation

Everyone has their own preference for lubes, there are some things to look for though! Oil based lubes degrade latex which means they don’t mix well with condoms; silicon lubes won’t dry up but can’t be used with silicone toys; however, water-based lubes are often non-sticky and work well with both toys and condoms but may need reapplication.

Vaginal rejuvenation

Vaginal rejuvenation can be a done through surgical and non-surgical methods with the result being tightening the vagina and improving lubrication.

HA fillers

Hyaluronic acid (HA) gel is used within dermal fillers to rejuvenate the vagina. HA has been used to revitalise the facial skin for many years as it’s a naturally occurring substance found in cell and tissues fluids and is a key component of well-moisturised skin.

This treatment involves injecting dermal fillers into the labia majora and aims to restore tone and elasticity, strengthen the intra-vaginal muscles, and improve sensitivity, while also reducing mucosal dryness. A 2012 study has found that the use of HA could be effective in improving vaginal atrophy with no adverse effects. 3

Laser resurfacing

Another vaginal rejuvenation treatment involves the use of lasers using light that transfers into heat energy, penetrating to a depth to stimulate and promote the regeneration of collagen and elastin fibres in the vaginal tissue. 3 This aids in reducing symptoms of vaginal atrophy; 5 it could also help stress urinary incontinence.

Although this could be a choice method to undertake, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that energy-based devices used for ‘vaginal rejuvenation’ can be unsafe and their use should be avoided. They previously greenlit such devices for clinical use such as destruction of abnormal or pre-cancerous cervical or vaginal tissue, among other needs; but they didn’t greenlight the devices for cosmetic or vaginal rejuvenation procedures. 6

The FDA warns that the treatments using these devices could cause adverse effects such as vaginal burns, scarring, pain during sex and recurring pain.

Consult a medical professional

Whatever you decide to do that you think will be right for the issues you may be experiencing, always consult a medical professional for their opinion.

For more advice and information about the menopause, please visit our Menopause Advice Centre.


References
1 NHS (2017). Vaginal dryness.
2 Ibid.
3 Grimaldi, E.F., Restaino, S., Inglese, S., Foltran, L., Sorz, A., Di, G.L. and Guaschino, S., (2012) Role of high molecular weight hyaluronic acid in postmenopausal vaginal discomfort. Minerva ginecologica, 64(4), pp.321-329.
4 Salvatore, S., Maggiore, U.L.R., Athanasiou, S., Origoni, M., Candiani, M., Calligaro, A. and Zerbinati, N., (2015) Histological study on the effects of microablative fractional CO2 laser on atrophic vaginal tissue: an ex vivo study. Menopause, 22(8), pp.845-849.
5 Salvatore S, Nappi RE, Zerbinati N, Calligaro A, Ferrero S, Origoni M, Candiani M, Leone Roberti Maggiore U., A 12-week treatment with fractional CO2 laser for vulvovaginal atrophy: a pilot study, Climacteric, 17 (2014) pp.363-9.
6 Cohut, M. (2018). 'Vaginal rejuvenation' devices 'have serious risks,' warn FDA. Medical News Today.

 

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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