Vaginal dryness can be one of the most uncomfortable things a woman has to cope with during menopause. Not only does it make sex less enjoyable (and more difficult), but it can also lead to irritation in everyday life. Here are a few things you need to know about this hormonal side effect of menopause.
Shifting hormones — a decrease in estrogen and progesterone — is the main reason genital lubrication dries up during and before menopause. Essentially these two hormones work with the skene glands to lubricate the vagina. With the onset of menopause and the decline in these hormones, the skene gland can’t properly release the clear secretion that lubricates the vulva. The result is dryness and itchiness around a woman’s genitalia.
The more you have sex — and enjoy it — the more readily your body will know how to respond to sexual stimuli (for example, sharing an intimate moment with your partner), even when the sex-driving hormones estrogen and testosterone are absent. This is why many doctors suggest women spend more time self-stimulating and exploring their sexual desires. Doing this will help you understand what turns you on and make you feel more confident in the bedroom.
With or without the collapse of hormones, sexual response and vaginal lubrication tend to decrease as we age. So to get in the mood, it’s advisable you and your partner spend more time enjoying and partaking in foreplay. This will help you connect with your partner as well as help you build up to orgasm instead of being expected to go from zero to 50.
Eat well and work out
Eating a well-balanced diet — which can help regulate mood and improve overall health — can go a long way to improving sexual response times and vaginal lubrication. If you’re not healthy, your vagina won’t be either. Avoid ingesting foods that dehydrate the body (thereby making lubrication harder), like coffee, alcohol and caffeinated soda, and drink plenty of water instead.
Talk to your OB/GYN
If you believe your vaginal dryness is extreme or if it’s negatively affecting your sex life, talk to a professional. He or she will be able to offer you medicinal treatment options you may not receive from another health care practitioner. Remember, sexual satisfaction vastly improves mood, so taking care of your sexual health can make the transition into menopause easier.
Reach for over-the-counter lubricants
Because vaginal dryness can make sex feel painful, using a water-soluble lubricant will help make penetration easier.