One of my good friends talks about the symptoms of aging as if they were climate change. “Up here,” she says, pointing to her face, “it now rains all the time.” “But down there,” she says, pointing to her vagina, “it is as dry as the desert.”
Our vaginas, like the rest of our bodies, change over the years. One of the most common changes is vaginal dryness, which usually kicks in when estrogen and other hormones start their gradual decline. Before we hit 40, our vaginal walls are rich in hormones that make them strong and flexible, as well as moist. Sexual arousal sends blood racing to the area, creating additional lubrication along with that lovely feeling of breathlessness that can accompany it.
Over age 40, the mucous membranes that form the walls start to lose their resilience. The thinning vaginal walls – you may notice that your “pink” has moved from a deep shade to a lighter shade – become more susceptible to inflammation and small tears. This new and unwelcome dryness can lead to pain during sex and to itchy discomfort at other times.
But no need to fret. There are many ways to reverse this mean spirited trick of Mother Nature’s, and they range from the all-natural to the over-the-counter to the prescription, and most are really easy to use. (Middlesexy encourages you to discuss remedies with your health care practitioner before you try them.)
All Natural Remedies
- Make sure you are really aroused before attempting intercourse. Extend foreplay (or get it started yourself before you join your partner) to give your blood flow a kick in the pants. The more you are in the mood, the less your partner’s penis or fingers will feel like a battering ram.
- Masturbate or have sex with a partner frequently – shoot for once a week then work your way up. Think of it as exercise for your pelvic floor, which is made of muscle and needs a regular workout to stay buff. (Click here for our “Quickie” masturbation how-to.)
- Do your Kegels regularly.
- Use a little olive oil as a lube.
- Avoid the following, which can irritate your vaginal walls: vinegar or other douches; hand lotions; soap; bath oils; scented paper products, including toilet paper; scented detergents
- Commercial lubricants can keep your vagina feeling good about itself. Apply some to your pussy, or rub some on to a partner’s penis. Click here for our feature story on lubes.
- Many drugstores now carry vaginal moisturizers, which are products that imitate normal vaginal moisture and work for up to three days at a time.
- Vaginal estrogen cream. These are usually inserted into the vagina with an applicator, and most women do this at bedtime because the cream can be a little messy.
- Vaginal estrogen ring. This soft, flexible ring is placed in the upper part of the vagina and it releases a consistent dose of estrogen. It usually needs to be replaced every three months.
- Vaginal estrogen tablets. Like creams, tablets are administered with an applicator, and release estrogen over time.
Vaginal dryness isn’t just a symptom of aging. It can also affect women who are taking birth control pills or antidepressants, and sometimes rears up after childbirth. Whatever the cause, vaginal dryness is a condition that can be vanquished. Now go experiment!
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Image via Anurag Agnihotri/Flickr