Surprised By Vaginal Dryness In Menopause? Most Women Are, Says An OB/GYN
During menopause, a majority of women experience a slew of symptoms: hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, interrupted sleep, and irritability—to name a few. While many women learn about these hormonal side effects before they arrive, board-certified OB/GYN Maria Sophocles, M.D., FACOG, NCMP, says one set of symptoms catches her patients off-guard the most: vaginal dryness and painful sex. And, they're even more surprised by how long the symptoms can last.
When women have had intercourse for years and the vagina has "always been their friend," it can come as a shock—and even a disappointment—when it stops functioning the way it always has, Sophocles says. "As one patient told me, 'I feel like my vagina betrayed me,'" she shares.
The vagina isn't betraying you, though, and the change didn't happen overnight. In fact, the process occurs slowly throughout the menopause process. When the body stops producing estrogen, it can lead to overall dryness—and yes, that includes the vagina.
Sophocles tells mbg that women need to be educated about this so they understand what's happening to them is normal—and that it might not go away when the hot flashes end.
Accepting that vaginal dryness is a natural change in the body and not a personal issue related to age or sex drive can empower people to seek out and try different interventions.
One tool Sophocles recommends using for everyday comfort is a vaginal moisturizer. "A vaginal moisturizer is something you insert vaginally a couple of times a week to keep things feeling moist and lubricated, even if you're really dry," she says. "It doesn't fix the cells, but it's a great quality-of-life enhancer."
For less painful sex, she recommends using a lubricant. Make sure to choose the right one for your body and your goal. "Water-based lubes are the most natural feeling, and silicone-based lubes last longest," she explains. Doing a spot treatment to see how your skin reacts to certain lubes is also important since the vagina and vulva can be sensitive areas. Here: a guide to natural lubes, including some DIY options.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.