Yes, ladies, this is one of the more taboo (and let’s face it, downright frustrating) symptoms of menopause.
It’s hard for anyone to admit that their bits and pieces suddenly don’t seem to work quite the way they used to – but vaginal dryness is a really common menopausal side- effect. And you know what that means? You are not alone.
If you’re in the perimenopause, you might have noticed things just don’t feel the same down there as before. As you move through towards the menopause and hormone levels decrease further, these changes can become more obvious.
Falling oestrogen can make the vagina’s walls thinner and dryer, in turn leading to tightness and discomfort, often with a side order of itchiness. It can also mean that when you’re aroused, you produce less natural lubrication.
Some women may find their vagina actually gets shorter, causing pain or burning, and sometimes even tearing with penetration. Medically, this is known as vaginitis.
TOP TIPS FOR YOU
The good news is there are several very practical steps you can take to treat vaginal dryness and vaginitis.
From the bathroom to the bedroom (and even the kitchen), here is the definitive GEN M bible to a happier, healthier V and fulfilling sex life, throughout the perimenopause, menopause and beyond.
SWAP TO A SOAP-FREE BODY WASH
If you’re wondering how to combat vaginal dryness, the first place to start is in your bathroom. Avoid scented wipes and harsh soaps which wash away the good bacteria and disrupt the delicate PH balance down there – if things are already dry, they’re only going to get dryer.
Washing with just warm water is enough to keep your foof clean and healthy, though if you feel you need some kind of body wash, choose a soap-free, specially-formulated option, designed for women in the menopause. Find the perfect product for you on our Femcare page.
INVEST IN A GOOD LUBE
Finding sex uncomfortable? Or worse, painful? Then it’s time to make a new purchase for your bedside drawers.
We recommend Sylk, which has been prescribed by the NHS for vaginal dryness since the 90s, or YES organic lubes. They also have a vaginal moisturiser which can be used for intercourse and as an everyday emollient to keep things down there happy and healthy.
TALK TO YOUR GP ABOUT HRT
Hormone Replacement Therapy – HRT for short – essentially does what it says on the tin. It replaces the hormones that your body is naturally losing due to the menopause, helping reduce your symptoms.
There are a number of ways you can take HRT medications, including tablets, patches and creams. Most women can take HRT but there are some risks, which your doctor should discuss with you.
EAT VAGINA-FRIENDLY FOODS
Your vagina is home to millions of good bacteria. Sounds bonkers but you can keep these topped up by eating fermented foods which contain probiotics.
Give kefir a try with berries for breakfast, drink a can of kombucha on the go and spice up a stir fry with kimchi – South Korea’s answer to sauerkraut. If you’re struggling with UTI’s, eating cranberries may relieve menopause vaginal dryness too.
Some women report that the herbal supplement Red Clover also helps combat vaginal dryness.
MAKE TIME FOR INTIMACY
For many women, vaginal dryness and loss of libido go hand-in-hand. Keeping lines of communication open with your partner is really important, as is making time to be intimate with each other. This doesn’t have to mean full-blown sex – it could simply be cuddling, kissing or massaging.
If your sex life (or lack of one) is getting you down, Relate can help match you with a local sex therapist.
TOP TIPS FOR OTHERS
One of the more taboo symptoms of the menopause, vaginal dryness is often swept under the carpet to save blushes. But talking about it can make a world of difference.
Here’s our advice for how to handle this very personal problem without making either of you feel uncomfortable.
OUR ADVICE TO HER
In terms of self-care, we’ve recommended that she swaps to a soap-free body wash and eats vagina-friendly fermented foods which contain probiotics.
More info on all of these top tips is on the ‘For her’ section of this page. Take a look.
ASK HER TO EXPLAIN
You might not have a vagina, or have ever experienced vaginal dryness. Gently ask her to explain the effect it is having on her physically and emotionally.
You may not be able to do anything to make her feel better. But she may not want answers, she may just need to talk – and be properly heard. Switch your listening ears on and give her your full attention.
WORK ON YOUR SEX LIFE TOGETHER
Approaching problems in your sex life as one is key to finding ways to overcome obstacles. Rather than treating a vaginal dryness as her issue, make it your collective job to work on it.
Talk about it and use the word ‘our’ rather than ‘your’, and ‘we’ and ‘us’ instead ‘you’ or me’.
You may also want to consider sex therapy to reset.
TRY THIS DOUBLE-WHAMMY
When combined, foreplay and lube make a formidable opponent to vaginal dryness.
Spending at least 20 minutes kissing and touching your partner before you get down to it can relax the muscles in the vagina and promote natural lubrication.
These natural juices may not be enough anymore though and ‘going in’ can make for a painful experience no matter how ready she feels. Apply a generous dollop of lube so she moans with delight rather than discomfort.
ACCEPT WHEN SHE’S NOT IN THE MOOD
Although it’s hard, try not to take her rejection of your advances personally. No one likes hearing the word ‘no’ but if she feels pressured in any way – although you didn’t mean to – it can create a vicious circle where frustrations begin to arise.
Instead of feeling disheartened, offer to give her a massage or cuddle instead. Touch is an important tool for keeping intimacy alive in a relationship, especially when sex is off the cards.
ENCOURAGE HER TO SPEAK TO A DOCTOR
If vaginal dryness is putting serious strain on your relationship, it’s been going on a while or seems to be getting worse, gently encourage her to speak to a GP. You could even offer to go to the appointment with her to show your support.