Published November 2019
Guest Blog: Vaginal Dryness and Pregnancy, Contraception and Beyond… by Philippa Kaye
Vaginal dryness is extremely common and yet not something which we talk about, resulting in many women not feeling able to discuss this, even with their GPs, though there are lots of appropriate treatments available! Vaginal dryness can lead to symptoms such as burning or itching and often, painful sex, the need to pee more often than usual and even recurrent urinary tract infections. While the issues relating to vaginal dryness are most commonly thought of as occurring after the menopause they can affect women of all ages!
Lactational atrophic vaginitis, is the medical term for vaginal dryness relating to breastfeeding and are due to the hormone changes needed for breastfeeding, the high levels of the hormone prolactin suppress the production of oestrogen. Some women find that their contraception will also lead to vaginal dryness, such as the combined contraceptive pill or the mini pill, patches or rings. Other causes include certain medications, for example those used to treat an overactive bladder, and antidepressants, so if you notice that you become dry about the same time you started a medication do discuss with your doctor. There are also skin conditions which affect the vulva and vagina and can lead to similar symptoms and certain health conditions such as diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome (which affects the ability to produce tears and moisture) could also be the culprit.
The good news is that there are lots of treatments available, depending on the cause of the vaginal dryness. If it is related to a medication, do not stop suddenly but please see your doctor as you may benefit from a change in medication, including changing contraception if appropriate. Dryness related to breast feeding will resolve after breast feeding stops but that doesn’t mean that we can’t treat it in the meantime!
Firstly, and as always avoid using any feminine hygiene product, soap, shower gel or similar on your genitals and most definitely don’t douche! The vagina is self cleaning and the vulva can simply be washed with water, if you feel you do need a product then you can wash with a wash such as Yes cleanse intimate wash. Vaginal moisturisers can be really helpful, but you need to use something which is for the vagina only, your normal moisturiser won’t be useful here! Most importantly, when it comes to sex you need to use a vagina safe appropriate lubricant. Yes water based lubricant is both safe and effective and can be used with condoms. The oil based lubricant is an alternative, or use both for the ‘double glide’ effect, but are not safe to be used with condoms. If the combination of these treatments is not enough, please see your doctor as there are other treatments available, which depend on the cause of your dryness. For example vaginal oestrogen can be used for breastfeeding related dryness and there are various treatments for vaginal skin conditions.
The take home point is you don’t need to suffer, let your doctor help!