There are many possible causes of so-called dry vagina, including hormonal changes, irritants to delicate tissues, and even anxiety. Here’s what you can do to keep a lack of vaginal lubrication from causing painful sex.
Causes of vaginal dryness range from physiological factors, such as hormonal changes or medication side effects, to emotional and psychological issues, such as lack of desire or even anxiety. Fortunately there are nearly as many options for dry vagina relief as there are causes.
The first step in treating vaginal dryness is figuring out the source of the discomfort, especially if a dry vagina is causing painful sex. There are a number of conditions that can lead to a lack of vaginal lubrication:
Changes in hormones.
One of the most common causes of vaginal dryness is a decrease in estrogen levels during menopause, perimenopause, after childbirth, or during breastfeeding. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation to the pelvis can also lead to low estrogen and a decrease in vaginal lubrication. “The vagina depends on estrogen for health,” says Irwin Goldstein, MD, director of Sexual Medicine San Diego, part of Alvarado Hospital in San Diego, Calif.
Allergy and cold medications containing antihistamines as well as asthma medications can have a drying effect inside the body and cause reduced vaginal lubrication.
Insufficient arousal. In some cases, vaginal dryness may be caused by a low libido or sexual problems with a partner. “If a partner has poor performance and early ejaculation, it can contribute to vaginal dryness,” says Dr. Goldstein.
Some women are allergic to chemicals in soaps, hygiene products, dyes, and perfumes. “Many women have allergies to detergents and soaps,” says Goldstein. “There can be irritants on things like underwear or towels.” Other allergens can actually include lubricants and objects that may be placed in the vagina, says Goldstein.
Psychological and emotional factors such as stress and anxiety can also wreak havoc on sexual desire and lead to vaginal dryness when normal vaginal lubrication does not occur. “When a woman is anxious there is insufficient blood flow,” says Goldstein, “so she will have dryness.”