We would count vaginal dryness amongst the world’s most confounding myths and conspiracy theories. Just like any good Netflix doccie, solid facts and scientific research can sometimes come second to spectacle and dramatics. No, your lack of natural lubrication is not, and should never be regarded as, a tragedy. Breathe a sigh of relief as we breakdown some of the (many) causes of vaginal dryness.
SYMPTOMS OF VAGINAL DRYNESS
Since Sex Ed. doesn’t usually extend to Vagina Ed. it’s important that you first understand how to identify vaginal dryness as women too often tolerate discomfort as normal. Here’s our check list to help you better know your body:
Do you ever experience pain during sex? It’s more common than you think. If you feel a burning sensation, irritation, light bleeding or pain after sex, there may not be enough lubrication. Sex should always be comfortable and pleasurable, there is no need to tolerate discomfort.
Does sitting, standing, exercising or urinating feel uncomfortable? Does your vagina ever itch, sting or burn? Vaginal dryness doesn’t only affect sex, it can have an impact throughout your day.
Do you suffer from long-lasting or recurring UTIs? Vaginal lubrication protects your body against infection and, without it, it’s more susceptible to infections including STDs and STIs.
A lack of lubrication can cause changes in the appearance of your vagina. If your labia lips appear thinner or if you notice redness, this may be a sign that there isn’t enough moisture. Vaginal discharge can also become more watery, discoloured and have a slight smell.
Not in the mood but no idea why? Due to the association we have created between arousal and lubrication, women often mistake dryness for loss of libido. Overtime this can affect sexual- and self-confidence.
It’s commonly believed that vaginal dryness is something exclusively associated with menopause. If you’re part of this majority then prepare to be amazed. The causes leading to vaginal dryness are vast and more common than you may think. Chances are, most women will experience a lack of lubrication at some point in their life so it’s best that we’re all prepared to deal with it confidently and without hesitation.
AGE IS JUST A NUMBER
Between the ages of 45 to 55, most women will begin to experience the symptoms of menopause as the body’s natural estrogen levels drop. Estrogen helps to keep the vagina moist and maintains the vaginal lining. As such, one common, but by no means guaranteed, symptom of low estrogen is vaginal dryness. However, while age is a common factor, there are many other reasons for vaginal dryness that can occur at any age.
Estrogen deficiency is not caused by menopause alone. Many women will experience fluctuations from the norm throughout their lifetime. Gynaecological procedures such as Oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) or Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) will cause natural estrogen production to drop significantly. Medical treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation inhibit estrogen production in order to slow tumour growth. Estrogen levels will also decline dramatically after childbirth and remain low to prevent it from interfering with milk production while breastfeeding.
And just when you think you’ve made it through unscathed, women will experience low estrogen levels on a monthly basis as they go through their menstrual cycle. While estrogen levels will peak just before ovulation (days 13 - 15), they then drop and will remain low until menstruation has finished.
IT’S NOT YOU, OR ME
Although foreplay is a major contributor to arousal, it’s often hurried. While the mind may be ready for action it can take the body a while to catch up. Vaginal dryness, in this case, is often misunderstood as a lack of attraction or sexual disinterest. The body takes time to meet the mind and a little foreplay can go a long way in bridging the gap. Some women may begin to doubt their femininity if their bodies aren’t performing to a particular standard or responding as needed. These baseless expectations only detract from sexual pleasure and should be abandoned in exchange for a growing interest in foreplay.
HARD PILL TO SWALLOW
Many medications commonly used by women are known to influence vaginal dryness, yet it’s not a side-effect that’s often mentioned. Birth control contraceptives, such as the pill or the shot, change hormone levels and can affect the body’s natural lubrication. Cold and flu medication such as antihistamines and decongestants narrow blood vessels in order to lower moisture levels and reduce mucus throughout the body which subsequently affects the vagina. Certain sedatives or antidepressants influence serotonin, which is closely linked to estrogen function, again leading to vaginal dryness. While these medications won’t have long term effects, and your body should return to normal shortly after you stop using them, it’s important that you’re aware of the possibility and lubricate accordingly for the time being.
WETNESS AND WELLBEING
Your health and wellbeing play a major role in your vaginal health. Healthy eating and exercise will do wonders for your sex life, while strenuous exercise can in fact lead to dryness. Smoking and drinking hamper blood circulation and increase dehydration which will slow arousal and decrease sensitivity. Emotional stress will not only make it difficult to get into the mood but it also impacts your hormone levels. While poor health is detrimental, living a healthy and balanced lifestyle has far reaching benefits in and outside of the bedroom.
SQUEAKY CLEAN, LITERALLY.
Ladies, please be careful of what you put in your vagina! Harsh chemicals, lotions, oils and soaps, even if labelled for intimate use, can disturb your natural equilibrium and cause serious discomfort. Read labels carefully to be sure that they’re everything they claim to be. External cleansing is one thing but when it comes to internal applications, such as douching or vaginal steaming, things can go badly, quickly. Any irritation or changes in pH-balance can lead to vaginal dryness and infection (of course, we only recommend OSKE's Fleur Intimate Wash).
DID YOU FINISH?
If you take anything from this vaginally enlightening experience, let it be this… Chances are, some way or some how, at some point in your Boss Babe life, you are likely to experience vaginal dryness. When that time comes, do not fret. This is real life and very normal. Grab some lube, keep it close, and continue to live the life of your dreams. In part three of this series we’ll be exploring why lube is the answer to all your prayers, dry or otherwise.
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