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Vaginal dryness is a common (but often avoided in conversation) symptom endured by nearly thirty three percent of women. Vaginal dryness can cause irritation, bleeding and painful intercourse. It can lead to embarrassment and avoidance of sexual relations during a time when menopause already has you feeling like you may never be back to normal again.

As estrogen levels decrease, a woman can experience a lack of moisture in the vagina and a decrease in the natural lubrication produced during foreplay. As the vaginal walls thin and lose elasticity, penetration can cause burning and pain. Water-based lubricants can help remove some of this discomfort and there are also over the counter vaginal moisturizers.

Many people feel like avoiding sex all together during this time. If your husband/partner is also having problems with erectile function, it can start to seem that sex is off limits. This can cause tension in your marriage.

Here’s what I suggest:

Check first with your gynecologist. He or she will examine you for any other possible causes first, just to rule out anything more serious. Treatments like hormone replacement therapy may be prescribed. This may be effective in returning your sex life to normal, but it is not without side effects. Make sure you go over the treatment options with your doctor before starting.

Another possibility is a vaginal estrogen cream. This has a lower dose of estrogen and is designed to help your body make natural lubrication again. Alternatively, a vaginal estrogen ring also provides low targeted doses of estrogen. It is inserted into the vagina where it can release slowly. The ring itself is very flexible and soft and is replaced every three months. You can also take the vaginal estrogen tablet — a suppository you insert everyday for about three weeks and then you skip a week. Again, check with your gynecologist to see if these treatments may be right for you.

You can try some of these at home to help your symptoms:

  • Avoid douching or taking bubble baths, both can lead to irritating vaginal dryness. Don’t use any of the new vaginal lubricants that are supposed to make your sensations increase. Most use peppermint oil, which is highly irritating in those areas, which is part of how they work but will only exacerbate your problems.
  • Do try extending the foreplay in your encounters and try to find a way to work around your problem, so that both of you are satisfied. Sometimes taking an adventurous role and keeping an open mind will help you through this time.
  • Ask your gynecologist about other solutions she or he may recommend. Don’t be shy… Gynecologists see this frequently and will most likely have just what you need. Don’t forget to ask about alternate therapies and possible herbal supplements.

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