Vaginal dryness is rarely mentioned yet it happens to over a third of women – isn’t it time we talked about it? Anna Magee on what you can do.
It’s incredibly common and yet, no one ever talks about it. And while vaginal dryness is often associated with the menopause, a recent survey found over a third of women over 25 have suffered from it, and nearly 70 per cent said it seriously dented their sexual confidence.
Over a third of women over 25 have suffered from it, and nearly 70 per cent said it seriously dented their sexual confidence.
Vaginal dryness and intimacy
It can not only cause physical discomfort but also emotional distress too, with women being unable to have sex causing them feelings of guilt or isolation.
In this video link, Kate Taylor, a sexual wellness expert discusses the devastating impact vaginal dryness can have on women. ‘Vaginal dryness is a silent nightmare for many women,’ Taylor explains. ‘Most often caused by hormonal changes, it can not only cause physical discomfort but also emotional distress too, with women being unable to have sex causing them feelings of guilt or isolation. Despite this, the research shows that 41 per cent of women with vaginal dryness have not sought a solution to the problem, but there are products out there that can help.’
Why does it happen?
The most common reason for vaginal dryness is the menopause or the years leading up to it. For the average British woman, menopause occurs at around 52 but the perimenopausal years can begin up to a decade earlier. The hormone estrogen is responsible for keeping the vagina lubricated but during menopause and the years leading up to it, estrogen levels can fluctuate and then dramatically drop leading to symptoms such as mood changes, hot flushes, tiredness, night sweats, weight gain and indeed, vaginal dryness.
As a result, women may experience vaginal dryness that seriously impacts their sex life. Indeed, the recent research conducted by vaginal hydrating brand Vagisil, found that while a staggering 48 per cent of women rate their sex lives as average or below, this is even higher – 54 per cent – for women with vaginal dryness.
48 per cent of women rate their sex lives as average or below, this is even higher – 54 per cent – for women with vaginal dryness.
But menopause isn’t the only cause. Other reasons for vaginal dryness include, childbirth or breastfeeding, the use of anti-depressants (especially the most commonly prescribed type called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs), endometriosis, fibroids, a urinary tract infection or allergies to certain cold medications. Washing with drying, harsh soaps might also contribute to day-to-day dryness.
What you can do
Your first stop should be your GP. He/she can examine you and do any necessary tests to work out what’s at the root of the problem. If your estrogen levels are low, your doctor might prescribe topical estrogen medication which can come in the form of creams, tablets or rings that you apply internally that deliver a low, local dose of estrogen to your vagina. They may come with side effects though, including breast pain and vaginal bleeding. Estogen therapy of any kind should also be avoided by women who have had or have a family history of breast or endometrial cancer and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Once you’ve ruled out medical causes – or you don’t think using hormone therapy in your intimate area is for you – you could try a hydrating gel such as Vagisil. Their new range Vagisil Prohydrate has been created after five years of research and clinical testing, so they’re proven both effective and safe (nine in ten women who tried it would recommend it to someone else suffering from intimate dryness). The active ingredient is ProHydrate Complex which includes a substance called hyaluronic acid, a type of moisturising agent that mimics the body’s own natural moisture. This coats the vaginal wall and slowly releases moisture over time to relieve dryness so you can feel comfortable and ready whenever the moment is right.
There are two vaginal moisturising products to choose from.
Vagisil Prohydrate Internal Hydrating Gel, £12 comes in six pre-filled applicators with five grams of gel in them which can be applied internally to release moisture over time, so you’re ready whenever the moment is right.
Vagisil ProHydrate External Hydrating Gel, £8.50 is a gel that can be used externally to keep skin feeling hydrated and supple.
Vagisil is available at Boots.