When Olivia, 26, who asked not to be named, decided to go on the contraceptive injection, things were normal at first. But gradually, she began to notice a significant change, not only in her moods, but in her want to have sex with her then long term buddy. Among other things, Olivia experienced painful sex resulting from vaginal dryness caused by lack of arousal. It made sex less than enjoyable and fueled a long list of reasons why she no longer felt like herself.
“My mental health had declined very, very slowly after I got the injection,” she told Mashable. “I only had two moods. I was either upset and in a negative state of mind or completely apathetic. My lack of desire was just another thing that confused me as to why I didn’t feel not myself.
The problem became “the elephant in the room” with his partner. “The annoying thing about sexual intimacy in a relationship is that no one wants to talk about it if it’s not going well. But even though it was never fully brought up, it definitely had an impact on the relationship in small ways over time, whether he felt rejected or I resented him after having sex out of a sense of obligation.
Olivia is not alone. A quick search of the term “vaginal dryness” on Reddit will throw up thousands of posts on hundreds of various forums, including r/sex, r/sexover30, r/birthcontrol and r/beyondthebump. It is not a surprise. Around 17% of premenopausal women Ages 18 to 50 will face a dry vagina at some point in their lives – a number that increases to over 50% for postmenopausal women – and all for a variety of reasons.
What is vaginal dryness?
Although it’s common, talking about vaginal dryness is still somewhat taboo, but it can be painful, embarrassing, and lead to poor mental health. But what exactly are the symptoms?
According to Dr Haitham Hamoda, consultant gynecologist and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG), the main symptoms of vaginal dryness include a feeling of pain or itching in and around the vagina, pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse and the need to urinate more than usual.
And it shouldn’t be underestimated how much of a ripple effect these symptoms can have on mental well-being. “Whatever the cause, vaginal dryness can have a huge impact on women and their mental health,” says Dr. Katherine Hertlein, sex therapist and sex therapy app expert advisor. blue heart says Mashable. “It can prevent intimacy, which can then have a major ripple effect on their relationships. It can also trigger negative feelings around self-esteem and attractiveness.
What causes vaginal dryness?
While chronic vaginal dryness can have a number of physiological and psychological causes, the most common is a drop in estrogen levels, which is why it’s more common in postmenopausal women. Estrogen is the sex hormone responsible for the development and maintenance of feminine characteristics and the female reproductive system. While all humans have estrogen, women have significantly more than men.
Low estrogen levels
“Lower estrogen levels are associated with menopause, lactation and childbirth,” RCOG’s Hamoda told Mashable. She adds that other possible causes include certain birth control pills or antidepressants, and certain cancer treatments, particularly but not limited to treatments for breast and prostate cancer.
Low estrogen levels can be caused by breastfeeding without your period returning yet, perimenopause or menopause, or loss of periods due to being underweight.
According to gynecologist Dr Jen Gunter The vagina bible, “progestin-only hormonal birth control methods can reduce glycogen in the vaginal lining, affecting lubrication and causing pain.” If you think you have low estrogen, talk to your GP about it before looking into other causes (or treatments) of vaginal dryness. They may prescribe a topical estrogen cream for your vagina if lube doesn’t help.
Lack of excitement
However, hormones are not the only answer. As Hamoda explains, “Vaginal dryness can also be caused by using scented soaps, vaginal washes, or douches in and around your vagina, which can disrupt the vagina’s natural bacteria.” It can also be a symptom of an underlying disease such as diabetes or Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that affects areas of the body that produce fluids, such as tears and saliva, which can be genetic or hormonal.
Another common reason, which should not be overlooked, is lack of excitement during sex. Dr. Hertlein explains that while this can be caused by a genuine lack or loss of attraction, it can also be caused by psychological issues such as depression or PTSD, which can be treated with various types of therapy, including CBT, psychodynamic therapy, talk therapy.
Common Causes of Vaginal Dryness
Low estrogen caused by menopause, breastfeeding, childbirth
Irritation by scented hygiene products
Lack of arousal during sex
How to treat vaginal dryness?
Treatment for vaginal dryness will obviously depend on the cause, but it’s encouraging to know that there are many options.
Your first port of call if you’re experiencing a dry vagina, Hamoda says, is to replace any products, such as scented soaps or other feminine hygiene products that might upset your vagina’s pH level, by the way. instead to a mild soap for the vulva. and leaving the inside of your vagina, which cleans itself. “Vaginal dryness can sometimes be easily treated using products available without a prescription, such as switching to a non-performing soap to wash the vagina or using water-based lubricants or vaginal moisturizers. However, if these options do not help you and the vaginal dryness persists for a few weeks, it is recommended to consult a general practitioner.
If the cause is low estrogen, you may be offered hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which is a hormonal drug to increase estrogen levels in your body. And for those who believe their vaginal dryness was caused by antidepressants, birth control, or another medication, it might be worth talking to your doctor about trying another option.
If the reason is psychological, the treatment can be a bit more complex. “If the problem cannot be diagnosed medically, a sex therapist can help you with your arousal issues and provide support to help you overcome them,” says Dr. Hertlein. She says a lack of arousal is not a black-and-white attraction problem and can be triggered by “mental, physical or emotional issues.” This is when sex therapy is likely to help. Such treatment will likely include increasing the amount of foreplay and applying appropriate sex therapy techniques to address arousal issues.
When Olivia stopped birth control, the problem subsided, taking about a year for her emotions to fully regulate. “Relief was definitely the biggest emotion I felt [when things went back to normal]especially because I realized it wasn’t just me.
Maybe if she knew more about the causes of vaginal dryness or a loss of desire, she could have reached this point much sooner. As Dr. Hertlein says, “The mental health implications [of vaginal dryness] emphasize why you should never suffer in silence; seek medical help and start looking for solutions.
Vaginal dryness doesn’t have to end your sex life, and you don’t have to shut up and accept it. Your vaginal health is important, and so are you.