Vaginal dryness is one of the most common symptoms of menopause. Shifting hormones and decreasing estrogen create a decrease in genital lubrication that can make sex uncomfortable and painful for women.
Lubrication is created in the Skene’s glands, and when arousal occurs, these glands release a clear secretion around the vulva. However, during menopause, estrogen and progesterone (which are needed to produce lubrication) decrease, and this means that lubrication decreases as well. The result is that your body might not respond to stimulation in the same way it used to. It might take you longer to present the physical symptoms of arousal, even when your mind is on board and ready to go.
Luckily, there are many ways to help treat this issue and get you lubricated and back on track. Consider the following:
- Self-stimulate regularly. Sex is built on a “use it or lose it” foundation. The more you have sex and enjoy orgasms, the more you will improve your sexual response and the more connected you will be with your sexual desires. Self-stimulation is particularly useful because you will be able to spend as much time as you want exploring your body and discovering what kinds of touches work best. Then, when you are with your partner, you can use — and teach him — all those tricks you learned while in the midst of your own foreplay. He will love seeing you so in touch with your body, and you will be more likely to reach orgasm and enjoy yourself.
- You are what you eat. Many people believe that your diet can impact your sexual response and lubrication. Drinking dehydrating liquids like coffee, alcohol, and caffeinated soda can drain your body. Instead, eat foods rich in healthy fats to help promote good cholesterol (which is needed to help create estrogen and thus lubrication). Drink plenty of water, of course, and eat juicy fruits and veggies, as well as heart-healthy foods like nuts, legumes, avocados, olive oil, and dark, leafy greens. Limit yourself to one glass of wine at dinner to help prevent the dehydrating effects of alcohol.
- Plenty of foreplay. As we age, our sexual response tends to slow down. We can’t go from 0-60 mph anymore. Instead, to truly achieve sexual pleasure, we need more time to become aroused and connect with a partner. You can do so by taking things slow and enjoying plenty of foreplay. Also helpful is to try positions that give you direct stimulation of the clitoris (such as woman on top) or positions that allow you to self-stimulate during the act (such as man from behind).
- Use lubrication. There are plenty of lubricating products to consider, but not all are created equal. If you are using condoms or sex toys, you should use only water-based lubricants because silicone-based and oil-based lubrications can break down the material of condoms and silicone-based toys. You can also use estriol vaginal cream, which is compounded with estrogens and occasionally testosterone. The estriol is inserted into the vagina as a suppository nightly, and it helps to build up the amount of lubrication you produce within your own body.
Most importantly, if you are suffering from sexual side effects such as vaginal dryness, you should talk to your ob-gyn about possibilities for treatment. Sexual satisfaction is an important component of a happy, healthy life, and your doctor should serve as a resource as you navigate through this new chapter of your journey.