Vaginal dryness is one of the most common symptoms of menopause. Shifting hormones and decreasing estrogen cause a lack of genital lubrication which can make sex uncomfortable or even painful.
Lubrication is created in the skenes glands, and when arousal occurs, these glands release a clear secretion in these glands around the vulva. However, during menopause, estrogen, and progesterone (which are needed to help create lubrication) decrease, and this means that lubrication decreases as well.
The result is that your body might not respond to arousal in the same way it used to. It might take you longer to present these 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 your body lubricated and back on track. Consider the following:
- Self-stimulate regularly. Sex is built on a “use it or lose it” philosophy. The more you have sex and enjoy orgasms, the more you will improve your sexual response and the more attuned 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 to explore your body and discovering your desires. Then, when you are with your partner, you can use all those tricks and touches you learned while in the midst of your own foreplay and intercourse. He will love seeing 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 soda can drain your body of hydration. Instead, you should hydrate regularly and eat foods rich in healthy fats to help promote good cholesterol (which is needed to help create estrogen and lubrication). Drink plenty of water and eat heart-healthy foods like nuts, legumes, dark, leafy greens, avocado, and olive oil. 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, we need time to become aroused and connect with our partners in order to truly achieve sexual please. You can do so by taking things slow and enjoying plenty of foreplay. 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 lubrications to consider, but not all are created equal. If you are using condoms or sex toys, you should only use water-based condoms as 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 are 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 create 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 of a happy, healthy life, and your doctor should serve as a resource as you navigate through this new chapter of your journey.