Vaginal Dryness: You have options (suffering is NOT one of them!)
Updated: Apr 5
I have been experiencing vaginal dryness for over a year and my doctor prescribed hemorrhoid cream!
Needless to say, it’s not working. Can you help?
I am so glad you wrote! Vaginal dryness is common and you have easy, viable options (one of them is not suffering…and the other is definitely not hemorrhoid cream!)
Vaginal dryness occurs most often in post menopause (12 months period-free) after estrogen (the hormone responsible for keeping our eyes, mouth, joints and vaginas lubricated) declines, and after hyaluronic acid (a naturally occurring molecule in our skin cells) also decreases significantly.
Vaginal dryness can occur at other times in our life too—one of the biggest culprits is the birth control pill, which changes our hormone balance. Other reasons include postpartum, overuse of pantyliners and other absorbent pads, side effect from cancer treatments, certain medications or other health conditions.
The bad news is vaginal dryness, if left untreated, is the one midlife experience that will not get better with time.
This is really important because many women have been conditioned to think menopause experiences are something we have to “get through” without realizing there are longer-term implications if action is not taken. The other really bad news is that of the 80% of women currently trying to deal with vaginal dryness, LESS THAN 4% are receiving treatment!
The good news is women have a menu of options for preventing and treating vaginal dryness. And, what women really need to know is this: prioritizing vaginal & pelvic health improves a woman’s overall quality of life—now and into the future.
Optimal vaginal health ensures we can sit, walk, dance and move our bodies comfortably.
It means we can have sex comfortably.
Physical movement is key for aging women as it supports our brain health.
And, a healthy vagina also helps prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) and incontinence.
So what can you do to prevent and/or treat vaginal dryness?
Have sex. A “use it or lose it” approach to vaginal health is not a myth. Sexual activity (with or without a partner) and regular orgasms keeps blood flow and energy directed to our pelvic region and that helps to produce natural vaginal lubrication. (Note: this is a PREVENTATIVE strategy. If you already experience dryness and find sex uncomfortable or painful, this is not a recommended approach. Continue reading for your treatment options.)
Practice regular pelvic floor exercise: See a pelvic floor physiotherapist at least once per year. Our pelvic health must be a priority as it is responsible for our bladder health, bowel health, sexual health and more. It’s important for all women to exercise their pelvic floor correctly and consistently, and this requires the guidance of a professional.
Moisturize your vagina: As part of a regular routine, you can prevent and treat vaginal dryness by moisturizing your vagina with hyaluronic acid—just like you moisturize your hands, face, feet and elbows!
Hyaluronic acid has been a popular ingredient in beauty and skincare products since 2003. In 2013, research by Dr. Petra Stute showed hyaluronic acid is as effective for treating vaginal dryness as localized estrogen therapy (a physician-prescribed form of hormone therapy--often in the form of a cream, suppository or ring--applied directly to the vagina delivering estrogen back to the body.)
In May 2021, the International Society of Gynecologists recommended vaginal moisturizer as the first line of treatment for vaginal dryness. This is because hyaluronic acid is a naturally-occurring compound made by our own bodies, but it starts to decline around age 30-40 and then more significantly in post-menopause.
A vaginal moisturizer is not the same thing as a lubricant or coconut oil. While lubricants should be used for pleasure and fun, a vaginal moisturizer works to actually restore natural moisture back into the cells of the vulva and vagina wall.
In 2019, members of the Menopause Chicks community asked me to research new options for treating vaginal dryness as they were frustrated by the lack of vaginal health education, the lack of conversation with their health care professional (less than 4% of women who experience vaginal dryness receive treatment!) and too many women were assuming vaginal dryness was something they had to tolerate.
Other members were frustrated by the lack of over-the-counter options as they were spending money on products that had great marketing, but contained primarily water, wax, glycerin, additives and preservatives. We know water is drying, glycerin is derived from sugar, which can cause yeast, and discharge from wax has sent some women straight to their doctors believing something terrible to happening to them.
We took our members’ concerns to an integrative pharmacy and co-developed a hyaluronic acid vaginal moisturizer that only contains hyaluronic acid and a little vitamin E which thousands of women are now reporting effective.
Laser and red light therapy is an option too. Every woman is at a different age and stage. Some women have been living with vaginal dryness for years—even decades. My message to them is that it is never too late to address this important area of our health. At-home red light therapy—or laser treatments by a qualified physician—are also potential options.
Marianna, I hope you find this menu of options helpful as you prioritize your vaginal health. It is unfortunate your doctor was not informed of these vaginal health options, but now that you are, you can choose the solution that is best for you!
This is so important. We want women to sit, walk, dance, practice her favourite sport and have sex comfortably into her 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond! Maintaining healthy cells in the vagina wall helps with all of these things.