Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be answering the question "What can help vaginal dryness?".
Vaginal dryness is one of the really common menopause symptom. It can also be one of the most distressing, uncomfortable, and painful conditions as well.
What causes vaginal dryness during menopause?
The main one is that as your oestrogen level starts to fall, this interferes with the production of mucus in the vagina. If the vagina starts to get a bit drier, this can also impact on the vaginal tissue.
Your vaginal tissue is one of the thinnest and most elastic membranes in the body. If you think about it, our vaginas have got to expand if you're giving birth, so the tissue, it's very delicate, but it's also very stretchy and very elastic. And if this start to dry out, it can affect the elasticity and also the thickness of the vagina wall, and that can lead to all sorts of problems, too.
Your friendly bacteria
If your mucus production in the vagina drops, this can also interfere with the bacteria in our vagina. Most of us know we have friendly bacteria in our digestive tract and how important they are for our digestion.
But we also have a combination of friendly bacteria in the vagina that help to protect the vagina from infection. And these bacteria also help to protect the opening to the urethra which leads to the bladder.
What problems can occur due to vaginal dryness
So, as you can see already, if dryness occurs, it can have a huge knock-on effect on all different areas of our genital health.
It can get very, very painful, you can get a burning sensation, you may find that you start to have pain on intercourse. Remember, if the elastic walls are not expanding enough, then that can be very, very painful. It can be very painful, too, if there's dryness during intercourse.
If you're losing those protective friendly bacteria, you can end up with thrush. You can end up with what we call dysbiosis of the vagina, which can lead to different odours and smells. You can get itching and you can also be more prone to urinary tract infections such as cystitis.
What can you do to help vaginal dryness?
Several things can help but if you are suffering, if you try these tips and they don't help, then please, at some point when you can get out to see your doctor, get everything checked out just to make sure that it's not a long-standing or stubborn infection that's going on.
Use unperfumed soaps and washing powders
The main thing here is to watch what you are using, such as your soaps, your shower gels. The tissue in this area gets more and more sensitive as time goes on. So, if it's already drying out and you start to use harsh soaps or bubble baths, then this can just make the situation worse so look at very, very gentle washes.
Try and go for natural ones, organic ones. I find just a very simple soap, a pure olive oil soap can be really helpful, and it's very nice and soothing.
Also watch what washing powder you are using for your underwear. This area is sitting next to your underwear all day and again, if you use harsh soaps or chemicals, that can continue to irritate the vaginal area right through the day.
Wear underwear made from natural fibres
Also, watch what fabrics you're using. This area needs lots of fresh air to keep it healthy, so if you're wearing synthetic underwear, then that can be part of the problem, too.
So, to help this, wear underwear that is made with natural fibres such as cotton.
Water is so important. The vaginal area is a mucous membrane, which means that it is packed full of water. And if you are dehydrated during the menopause, which the majority of women are because falling oestrogen can impact on the way your body keeps itself hydrated, then one of the first areas to suffer is the vagina so loads of water every single day, over and above what you're already drinking.
Sometimes, that by itself can make a huge difference, so it's worth trying.
Cut down or cut out drinks that dehydrate you
So that will be things like coffee, alcohol, your fizzy drinks, and sometimes even fruit juices are not that particularly good for you, so it's really important to keep these to a minimum.
Sea Buckthorn Oil
There is a supplement you can get called Sea Buckthorn Oil and it's a really nice one. It's known to help to improve the condition of mucous membranes in the body. That will include the vagina.
Very often with vaginal dryness, you might find that you get dry mouth, dry eyes as well and dry skin. So, Sea Buckthorn Oil is a lovely one because it helps in all these areas.
If you're prone to bladder infections, if you're getting itching, if you're getting things like thrush regularly, then you could consider taking a vaginal probiotic. Again, this is something that very often can work really quickly, so it's certainly worth adding in, maybe for two or three weeks just to see if it's going to help you.
If you are finding intercourse painful, if you're a little bit dry, you can get really good natural lubricants. And this is important because some of the over-the-counter lubricants that you can get, they're full of chemicals. And if you're already really sensitive, they can make things worse.
So what I would say here is pop down to your local health food shop if you can. They will have a range of natural lubricants that can very often be really, really helpful.
Aloe vera gel
This is a lovely one if you are burning. You keep it in the fridge. Make sure it's a pure organic aloe vera gel. Again, you don't want to be using anything that has preservatives in it.
St John’s Wort Oil
Some women find as everything dries out, this starts to irritate the nerves in the vagina area and this can be very, very painful. So, if you are getting a lot of nerve pain, you could look at something called St John's Wort Oil. This is a nice one for calming down the nerves and easing the discomfort.
As I mentioned before, if you have tried these tips, if you find that nothing is working, then do pay a visit to your doctor. They can offer you oestrogen pessaries.
I know a lot of women don't want to be taking anything like that but sometimes, you know, if you're in a lot of discomfort, if nothing is working, then there are times when sometimes, you have to go down that route. So definitely don't delay if you are in a lot of pain.
Organic coconut oil
The other thing that a lot of women tell me can be really helpful is organic coconut oil. This is the oil that you can use for cooking, and this is a lovely one for dry skin generally. So, certainly, have a little bash at that one if you want, especially if it's in your cupboard already.
Does vaginal dryness improve after menopause?
I do get asked a lot, "Does vaginal dryness improve after the menopause?" This is such a difficult question to answer because it's going to be different for every single woman. But if you try and support the vagina during the menopause, if you try and give it that little bit of TLC and, you know, remember your water and everything else, you may find that it will improve afterwards as well.
But this is one of these situations where you're going to have to wait and see whether things will improve afterwards or not. So, I'm sorry I can't give you a precise answer in that one.
So, I hope this has been helpful. If any of you out there have any other tips, if you have found something that works well for you, please share it because there are lots of women out there looking for help, so thank you very much.