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Sexual Health

Vaginal Health During Perimenopause: Tips and Best Practices for Women in Their 40s

Discover essential tips and best practices to maintain vaginal health during perimenopause, reduce the risk of infections, and enjoy a healthy, fulfilling life.
Dr. Ameya Kanakiya
October 19, 2023

Perimenopause, the time leading up to menopause, can bring about a range of changes to your body, including vaginal dryness. This common symptom can make sex uncomfortable and increase your risk of infections. But don't worry; there are solutions to help you manage this change and maintain your vaginal health.

Understanding Vaginal Dryness in Perimenopause

Perimenopause is marked by fluctuating estrogen levels. Estrogen helps keep your vaginal tissues healthy, lubricated, and elastic. As estrogen decreases, the lining of your vagina can become thinner and less flexible, leading to dryness. This can cause discomfort, itching, burning, and pain during intercourse.

Vaginal Infections: Increased Risk During Perimenopause

The changes in your vagina during perimenopause also make you more susceptible to infections such as:

  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV): An overgrowth of certain bacteria in the vagina, causing itching, discharge, and a fishy odor.
  • Yeast infections: These fungal infections are more common with lowered estrogen, leading to itching, burning, redness, and thick discharge.
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs): Dryness weakens your natural defenses against bacteria that can cause UTIs, resulting in painful urination, urgency, or blood in the urine.

Natural Remedies for Vaginal Dryness

If you're experiencing vaginal dryness, try these home remedies:

  • Water-based Lubricants: Use water-based lubricants during intercourse to reduce friction and discomfort. Look for unscented, glycerin-free options, as these are less likely to irritate. Popular brands available in India include K-Y Jelly, Durex Play Feel, and Cupid Care.
  • Regular Sexual Activity: Staying sexually active helps maintain healthy blood flow to your vagina and stimulates natural lubrication. If intercourse is painful, explore other forms of intimacy or use plenty of lubricant with gradual penetration.
  • Vaginal Moisturizers: Vaginal moisturizers provide long-lasting relief for dryness, working differently than lubricants. Consider brands like Replens, Hyalo-Gyn, or Luvena (ask your pharmacist or doctor if these are available). Use them a few times a week, even when you're not sexually active.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Manage stress through relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation. Get enough sleep, as fatigue can worsen symptoms. Maintain a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, which support overall hormonal balance.
  • Natural Oils: Some women find limited relief using small amounts of natural oils like coconut oil, olive oil, or sweet almond oil as external moisturizers. Be cautious, as these are not scientifically proven remedies and can potentially irritate sensitive skin. Avoid internal application and always test on a small patch of skin first to check for allergies.

Important Note: While these remedies may offer some relief, it's crucial to understand that their effectiveness can vary, and supporting research is often limited, especially for natural oils. If your dryness is severe or doesn't improve, consult your doctor. They may recommend additional treatments or screen for underlying conditions.

Can Soya Cure Vaginal Dryness?

Soy contains phytoestrogens, which mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Some studies suggest that soy may help with vaginal dryness, but more research is needed. Be aware that soy can interact with certain medications, so talk to your doctor before incorporating large amounts of soy products (tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk) into your diet.

What Other Health Conditions Causes Vaginal Dryness?

Perimenopause isn't the only culprit behind vaginal dryness. Other factors that can contribute include:

  • Medications: Certain medications like antidepressants, allergy treatments, birth control pills, or some breast cancer treatments can affect lubrication.
  • Thyroid problems: Both an underactive (hypothyroidism) or overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can disrupt hormone balance.
  • PCOS: Polycystic ovary syndrome can cause hormonal imbalances, including low estrogen.
  • Sjögren's syndrome: An autoimmune condition that impacts moisture-producing glands throughout the body.
  • Other Causes: Dryness can also be caused by breastfeeding, chemotherapy, or premature ovarian failure (early menopause).

How to Maintain Vaginal Health During Perimenopause?

Taking care of your vaginal health is essential during perimenopause and beyond. Here's what you can do:

  • Schedule regular check-ups: See your gynecologist for annual exams and discuss any concerns about dryness or infections.
  • Educate yourself: Learn about perimenopause and vaginal health by doing research.
  • Choose cotton underwear: Breathable cotton helps keep the vaginal area dry. Change your underwear if you experience discharge or other moisture.
  • Practice proper hygiene: See instructions in the blog.
  • Use lubricants during intercourse: If you experience vaginal dryness, consider using water-based lubricants.
  • Boost your libido: Perimenopause can sometimes lead to a dip in libido. Talk to your partner and find ways to reignite your intimacy.

Important Note: Always consult your doctor before making significant dietary changes or starting new supplements. If dryness persists or you experience other concerning symptoms, talk to your doctor for personalized care.

Remember, you're not alone! Vaginal dryness is a normal part of perimenopause for many women. Manage it and consult with your doctor to feel comfortable and confident again.