The Vagina is an essential organ of the female reproductive system, a muscular and elastic canal extending from the Vulva (exterior of the female genital area) to the Cervix (opening part of the uterus), about 7.5 -9 cm in length. It has several nerve membranes and forms the most vital part of menstruation, sexual intercourse, pregnancy, and childbirth.
The Vagina’s functions are as follows:
- Sexual Intercourse – The Vagina expands when a men’s penis penetrates it during sexual arousal and gets lubricated. It holds the sperm until they pass into the uterus.
- Menstrual Cycle – During a woman’s monthly periods, the Vagina is a passage for menstrual blood flow from the uterus.
- Pregnancy – During intercourse, sperm are released in the Vagina when a man ejaculates and passes through the Fallopian tubes to the uterus. Fertilization happens in the ovaries to form eggs that unite with men’s sperm. These fertilized eggs pass through the Fallopian tubes and implant in the uterus resulting in embryo growth and pregnancy.
- Childbirth – The Vagina has alternatively been termed the “Birth Canal” in the role of a child’s birth. Through the Vagina, the baby gets carried from the uterus outside the body.
1. Vaginal Dryness and Vaginal Atrophy
As discussed above, Vagina plays a fundamental role in our bodies. Now, what are vaginal dryness and vaginal dryness symptoms? Let us study this here in detail.
Vaginal dryness is a problem that occurs when there is less natural lubrication in the Vagina with Cervix (Cervical glands in the Cervix keep the Vagina moist and lubricated). It generally occurs in menopausal women but is very common in women of any age. The other menopause symptoms besides vaginal dryness are hot flashes, blood clots, and night sweats.
A study from PubMed Central of the National Library of Medicine (NIH) states that women who experience vaginal dryness increased from 19.4% (at the ages of 42-53) to 34% (at the ages of 57-69), and also the factors associated with it.
The medical term associated with vaginal dryness and vaginal irritation in postmenopausal women is called Vaginal Atrophy. Inflamed, dry and thin Vaginal walls are the symptoms of this condition. A person experiences sores and cracks in the Vaginal wall.
A 2014 study from PubMed of the National Library of Medicine (NIH) explains the research on the association between vaginal microbiota and Vulvovaginal Atrophy (VVA).
1.2. Vaginal Dryness Causes and Symptoms
With an increase in age, the production of hormones slows down, resulting in vaginal dryness. But the most common cause for those experiencing vaginal dryness is less estrogen production or inadequate estrogen levels.
Estrogen is a hormone responsible for maintaining female sexual and reproductive health. High or low estrogen levels cause hormonal imbalance and Vaginal Atrophy. Smoking can cause Vaginal Atrophy by decreasing estrogen levels.
The other causes of vaginal dryness are aging, reduced hormone levels, nutritional imbalance, menopause, breastfeeding, hormone treatments, therapies like Chemotherapy (Cancer) or Radiation Therapy (Pelvis), removal of ovaries due to surgery, immune disorders, removal of the womb, yeast infections and medications like anti-estrogens or antihistamine.
The vaginal dryness symptoms are as follows:
- Itchy and burning sensations in the Vagina
- Recurrent urination
- Excessive discharge
- Rise of urinary infections of the tract
- Urinary incontinence
- Pain or discomfort during intercourse
- Vaginal infections
- Shortening or tightening of the Vaginal Canal
2. Natural Remedies for Vaginal Dryness
Based on the above causes and symptoms, it is very dominant to maintain good overall vaginal health. Here, we will list tips and remedies with lifestyle changes to relieve vaginal dryness symptoms.
2.1. Stay Hydrated
Keeping the body hydrated by drinking lots of water is one of the simplest and best ways to keep your vaginal tissues moist, active, and lubricated. Water also supports cellular health, metabolism, and absorption of essential nutrients for the body.
2.2. Quit Smoking
Smoking impacts the estrogen level and develops Vaginal Atrophy, it can affect the vaginal tissue and blood vessels. Hence, it is a recommendation to stop smoking for good vaginal health.
2.3. Regular Exercise and Sexual Stimulation
Regularly exercising improves the mood, removes toxins, and helps promote blood flow to the body tissues, thereby balancing hormone levels and providing efficient nutrient delivery. Pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) can strengthen weak vaginal muscles, increase blood flow and relax the tight muscles.
Being sexually active increases blood flow to the genital area, improves vaginal secretions, and sustains vaginal health.
2.4. Follow a Balanced Diet and Herbal Supplements
A balanced diet helps to maintain body weight and muscle mass and may help prevent vaginal dryness. Eat foods rich in Omega 3s (sesame pumpkin or sunflower seeds and fish like mackerel, salmon, and tuna) that may help in vaginal lubrication.
Foods with Vitamin D and C help to maintain a proper weight. Vitamin E facilitates metabolism and improves blood circulation, providing more natural lubrication. Also, it includes foods rich in plant estrogens like soybeans, flax seeds, yam, and other soy products.
Soy is a protein high in Isoflavones (plant-based chemical compounds) that help regulate the estrogen level and provide a remedy for female dryness. An investigation from JAMA Network shows that plant estrogen and plant-based therapies can help to treat vaginal dryness and might improve menopausal symptoms.
Avocados are rich in fats, Vitamin B6, and potassium that helps in vaginal lubrication, maintain estrogen, and strengthen the vaginal walls.
Herbal Supplements can be one of the best remedies for vaginal dryness. A randomized controlled trial from Science Direct shows that Sea Buckthorn Oil intake was a preferred alternative for Vaginal Atrophy over estrogen treatment. Also, medical practices like Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine use some herbs and plants for lubrication and to support vaginal health.
2.5. Natural Lubricants
Natural lubricants may help soothe and cool the vaginal area and relieve Vaginal Atrophy. Some recommended ones are Coconut oil, Jojoba Oil, Almond oil, and Olive oil. These lubricants aid in stimulating the Vaginal Mucosa and hinder any infections in and around the Vagina.
Coconut oil is a natural oil from coconuts that helps with dry skin and moisturizes it. Massage coconut oil slowly near the Vagina with a small amount.
Jojoba oil has moisturizing properties and is non-irritable and non-allergic to the skin, with anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Almond oil is an excellent natural lubricant and a herbal oil to treat vaginal dryness symptoms and holds a fantastic aroma creating a lovely and romantic atmosphere.
Olive oil is a Vitamin E oil effective for hydrating the skin and holding moisture. Applying a small amount of this oil can help relieve vaginal dryness.
Aloe Vera is a natural plant source and a vaginal lubricant that helps in skin renewal. A Science Direct and PubMed of the National Library of Medicine (NIH) study shows that Aloe Vera can be an effective option in Vaginal Atrophy.
2.6. Water-Based Lubricants
Using water-based lubricants before intercourse provides more pleasure and satisfaction during sex. Applying them around the area of the Vagina helps reduce any discomfort during intercourse and lessens vaginal dryness. But they hold moisture for a short time and get dried quickly, which is a drawback.
2.7. Vaginal Moisturizers
Like face cream, a vaginal moisturizer is an excellent lubricant that keeps the vaginal tissues moist and relieves vaginal dryness. It also avoids skin irritation and discomfort. Applying it a few times every week near the vaginal walls locks in moisture and prevents dryness.
2.8. Avoid Cosmetics and Synthetic Products
Avoid using products like powders, deodorants, perfumed or harsh soaps, lotions, or cleansers near the area of the Vagina. It can create more irritation to the skin and result in Vaginal Atrophy. Use mild soaps and lotions for the Vagina.
3. Treatment Options
If natural remedies don’t work, you can choose to meet a healthcare provider who may suggest creams or treatments.
Vaginal Estrogen therapy is one of the options that includes a topical cream or taking an oral pill. This therapy follows the application of an estrogen cream or gel to the Vagina. Estrogen creams do not mix with the bloodstream or with the other parts of the body. Also, oral estrogen tablets are an alternative option.
Probiotics are good bacteria that maintain vaginal health by the vaginal ph. Research from PubMed Central of the National Library of Medicine (NIH) shows probiotics can alleviate vaginal dryness symptoms.
Vaginal Dilator therapy is a process where a medical device gets inserted into the Vagina, which improves the tissues of the Vagina, increases blood flow, and stimulates moisture and lubrication.
4. Final Note
Vaginal dryness is a women’s health concern, impacting their sexual health and other symptoms discussed above. Consider natural remedies or see a healthcare provider for appropriate treatment options.