Guest article from our friends at Kindra
Vaginal Dryness? What’s That?
In the years prior to menopause, women’s bodies naturally maintain moisture and lubrication in the vagina. The vaginal wall is hydrated and tissue lining is intact, making sex comfortable and pleasurable while providing an optimal environment for reproduction. As women approach menopause, estrogen production declines. This shift causes a reduction in blood flow to the vagina, leading to thin and dry vaginal tissue. In some cases the tissue depletes significantly, leaving the vagina prone to inflammation and persistent discomfort. Voila: Vaginal dryness!
Vaginal atrophy, (scientifically known as atrophic vaginitis,) is a pretty terrible medical term for when vaginal dryness is likely to occur. Typically affecting postmenopausal women, it is the thinning, drying, and inflammation of the vaginal walls. This can cause both vaginal and urinary discomfort, so doctors tend to call this condition genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM).
What are the Causes?
Typically, the main culprit is lower estrogen levels. While women produce less estrogen as they mature, this does not only occur during menopause. Childbirth or breastfeeding can also trigger vaginal dryness. Smoking, immune disorders, anti-estrogen medications, and cancer treatments can contribute to hormone fluctuations, too. Changed your birth control recently? Adjustment in birth control can trigger dryness down there, due to varying hormone level across formulations and types. Vigorous exercise, like cycling or spin classes, can cause dryness and irritation, as well.
Do you use soaps or douches in or around the vagina? Try discontinuing and see if that helps ease irritation. Your vagina is self-cleaning and doesn’t need cleansing hygiene products to keep it fresh. Douching can actually trigger inflammation, dryness, yeast infections, even urinary tract infections.
How do I Know it’s Happening?
Assuming you’re experiencing vaginal dryness only, (and not a bacterial or yeast infection), you will generally feel itching, burning, and tenderness. It can also make intercourse painful, which can have a frustrating impact on your sex life. Light bleeding can occur after painful sex due to a compromised vaginal tissue and broken skin-moisture barrier. Mild vaginal discharge can also be a sign of dryness occurring.
Though vaginal dryness is often recognized as a side effect of perimenopause and postmenopause, women of all ages can experience it. Knowledge is empowering, so we want to equip everyone with information, including what can be done to help with discomfort.
How do I Treat It?
To start, find a lotion or lubricant to replenish the tissue in the vagina. Lotions help since the discomfort comes from dry skin; much like skin anywhere else on our body, it needs TLC. Kindra’s water-based, pH-balanced Daily Vaginal Lotion will provide you with near-instant dryness relief. It’s formulated with clinically-proven ingredients to help rebuild the compromised skin moisture barrier, and skin-critical vitamins and restorative lipids to support skin hydration. Kindra’s lotion comes with an applicator for precise application at the vaginal opening, or introitus, where you need it most for optimal relief. Easy to use, mess-free, and highly effective.
In the rare event you find that vaginal moisturizers are not helping, a women’s health professional, like your gynecologist, is the best next step. They will identify treatment options that may help and may even suggest estrogen therapy.
When Should I See A Doctor?
First, to ease your mind a bit: Vaginal dryness is rarely an indication of a serious medical condition. More often it’s a symptom of a shift in your life–menopause, motherhood, a change in your exercise routine, or a new cleansing product. That being said, it is incredibly uncomfortable and there is no need to let it persist.
If you find that the symptoms last beyond a few days, or if it happens consistently during sex, it’s time to see your healthcare provider. Left untreated, vaginal dryness can cause sores or cracking in the vaginal tissue. Ouch! A note of caution: If the dryness and discomfort are accompanied by severe bleeding that is not related to your menstrual cycle, be sure to seek immediate medical attention.
What Should I Expect During My Visit?
During a doctor’s appointment for vaginal dryness, your gynecologist will likely perform a pelvic exam so they can check your vaginal walls for thinning skin and any sores. They may also take a vaginal discharge sample to test for any harmful bacteria since the dryness and inflammation can lead to a pH imbalance. Occasionally, a hormone test may be administered to determine if you are indeed in menopause. You can try out Kindra’s menopause quiz to see if what you’re experiencing is an indication of perimenopause or postmenopause, and discuss with your healthcare provider as needed.
Ok, Got it. Anything Else?
Yes! Now that you’re informed, the most important thing is not to feel embarrassed. This is a normal, (though yes, annoying,) part of being a woman. The next important thing is you don’t have to experience it alone.
Vaginal dryness can be a major issue and talking about it helps. Kindra has a Facebook group for women who are navigating menopause. From enjoying sex to forming connections to finding your kindred spirits, all is on the table for discussion. You’re always invited to join the conversation. And if you want more education on the signs and symptoms of menopause, Kindra’s got you covered.
NOTICE: KINDRA DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL OR HEALTH CARE ADVICE. OUR EMPLOYEES AND OTHER REPRESENTATIVES ARE NOT PHYSICIANS OR HEALTH CARE CLINICIANS. YOU SHOULD CONSULT YOUR PERSONAL PHYSICIAN FOR ANY MEDICAL AND/OR OTHER HEALTH CARE ADVICE BEFORE ACTING ON ANY INFORMATION PROVIDED BY KINDRA OR ANY OTHER SOURCE.