By Rose Goodman
Vagisan research of 1000 women (aged 45 and 65) showed that vaginal dryness, as a result of menopause, is impacting the sex lives of 6 in 10 women and over half (58%) are having less sex or avoiding it altogether as a result.
Almost three quarters (74%) said the condition impacted their sex life more than their day-to-day life. However, new research reveals that many women are confusing this key symptom with vaginal infections or simply assuming they are no longer attracted to their partner.
The research also found that 39% of women are actually using all sorts of non-specialist products such as Vaseline, coconut oil and Sudocrem on their most intimate area, which is not recommended and can cause infections.
‘Often, these are not as effective as using a product specifically designed for the problem,’ explains Dr Harper, a GP specialising in women’s health.
For many a good vaginal lubricant helps ease many of the symptoms. But if you are one of the 6 in 10 women that is avoiding sex due to vaginal dryness, you may want to explore other treatments. We consulted three medical experts for their recommendations...
What does vaginal dryness feel like?
‘Vaginal dryness can feel like a prickling sensation, sometimes accompanied by itching, burning and pain,’ says Dr Dawn Harper.
Causes of vaginal dryness
The most common cause of vaginal dryness is lack of oestrogen- a hormone which is essential in maintaining the vaginas acidity levels, elasticity and lubrication. Therefore, when these levels drop, which happens often during menopause, the lining of the vagina becomes thinner and less elastic, and the vagina produces less lubrication.
Why this impacts your sex life
If your oestrogen levels have dropped with menopause and your vagina is less lubricated, this is likely to effect your sexual enjoyment. Even gentle friction can cause discomfort or pain with poor lubrication. Add to this the normal thinning of the skin around the vagina that occurs with age, and you have the recipe for a potentially bad sex life.
Treatments for vaginal dryness
‘The problem is, there are so many options for women, outside of the traditional lubricants, to alleviate vaginal dryness but most of these only lubricate the vagina during sex, therefore only providing short-term relief,’ points out Consultant Gynaecologist, Ms Tania Adib.
Oestrogen can be prescribed by a clinician, and comes in the form of pessaries or a cream. ‘In severe cases they can be used at the same time. Pessaries are easy to insert and not messy – roughly the size of a tic-tac sweet and can be used with standard HRT, patches gels and tablets,’ explains Dr Joanne Hobson, a GP from Nurture Fertility.
‘These can be used safely for life, even in women with breast cancer that is oestrogen receptor positive, as well as women who have had strokes or clots in the lung,’ adds Joanne.
The three most effective treatments include:
- A low-dose vaginal estrogen cream, tablet or ring to reinvigorate vaginal tissues. Even if you’re using systematic HRT pills or patches, you may be prescribed a low-dose vaginal oestrogen treatment.
- Deydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) approved by the Food and Drug company Administration, this comes in the form of a nightly vaginal suppository and is especially effective if dryness of the vulva as well as dryness of the vagina is a problem.
- Ospemifene (Osphena) a selective oestrogen receptor modulator (SERM) medication taken by mouth has been approved for treating painful intercourse associated with vaginal astrophy.
If you are struggling with vaginal dryness or it is effecting your sex life, make an appointment with your GP.
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