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General Fitness

Hormonal Balance and Vaginal Dryness: The Connection and How to Improve it

Are you tired of that irritating dryness down there? Hormonal imbalance could be the culprit. Read to know you can balance your hormones for a healthy vagina.
April 5, 2024

We’re all in favour of using lubricants to make your playtime smoother. But do you find yourself reaching for the lubricant more often than usual? Are you wondering if there's a connection between vaginal dryness to your hormones? You're not alone. Hormonal imbalances can play a major role in causing vaginal dryness, but it's not a permanent condition.

In this blog post, we will discuss what vaginal dryness is, its connection with your hormones, why it is a concern, and how you can improve it easily.

What is Vaginal Dryness?

Vaginal dryness occurs when the tissues of the vagina are not lubricated enough, causing discomfort, itching, and even pain during sexual intercourse. This can occur at any age but is most common in women experiencing certain hormonal imbalances, such as low estrogen levels.

When your hormones are balanced, you will find yourself naturally lubricated during the ovulation phase. This is due to increased estrogen levels, which can cause changes in the cervix and cervical mucus. It is a fluid secreted by glands in the cervix, and its consistency changes throughout the menstrual cycle. 

During the ovulation phase, an increase in estrogen levels can cause cervical mucus to become thinner, clearer, and more slippery, resembling the consistency of raw egg whites. On the other hand, low estrogen levels can cause cervical mucus to be thick and sticky.

What Are the Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness?

The most common symptoms of vaginal dryness include:

  • Itching in the vaginal area
  • Discomfort during sexual activity
  • Pain during sexual activity
  • Burning or stinging in the vaginal area
  • Increased vaginal infections

Why is Vaginal Dryness a Concern?

Vaginal dryness is a common concern that can significantly impact a woman's quality of life. The vaginal tissues are naturally lubricated with a thin layer of moisture when your hormones are balanced. However, when your hormones are imbalanced, this moisture decreases or is disrupted, and the tissues can become dry, thin, and irritated. This causes itching, burning, or soreness in the vaginal area. 

It can also cause discomfort during activities that pressure the vaginal area, such as sitting, standing, or exercising. Women may also experience pain during sexual intercourse, as the friction from vaginal dryness can cause discomfort and injury, leading to a loss of interest in sex. The constant discomfort may also cause you to feel self-conscious and limit your activities or social interactions.

In addition,that can increase the risk of vaginal infections, such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis, due to the lack of natural lubrication and protective acidity in the vagina. These infections can cause further discomfort and disrupt the normal balance of vaginal microbiome.

Does Vaginal Dryness Cause Other Issues?

Vaginal dryness can increase the risk of vaginal infections, including yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. The natural moisture in the vagina helps to maintain a balance of healthy bacteria that protect against infections. When the vaginal tissues are not well lubricated, it can lead to small cuts or tears in the vaginal walls, making it easier for harmful bacteria and fungi to enter and cause an infection.

Additionally, the lack of natural lubrication can make it difficult for the body to flush out bacteria and other l substances from the vagina that can become toxic if not flushed out, further increasing the risk of infection.

How Do Hormones Affect Vaginal Dryness?

Hormones, especially estrogen, play a significant role in maintaining the health and function of vaginal tissues. When estrogen levels decrease, vaginal tissues can become thinner, drier, and less elastic, leading to vaginal dryness. 

Other hormonal changes, such as those caused by medications or medical conditions, can also affect your vaginal lubrication. For example, hormonal contraceptives like birth control pills, patches, and injections can affect estrogen levels and cause vaginal dryness in some women.

How Do Hormonal Contraceptives Cause Vaginal Dryness?

Hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills, patches, and injections, contain synthetic versions of hormones that occur naturally in a woman's body. These synthetic hormones can disrupt the balance of hormones in the body and lead to a decrease in estrogen levels that is responsible for maintaining the health and elasticity of vaginal tissues and regulating the production of vaginal fluids. This decrease in estrogen level causes vaginal tissues to become thinner, drier, and less elastic, causing vaginal dryness.

Hormonal contraceptives can also affect the balance of other hormones, such as progesterone, which can further contribute to vaginal dryness. However, it's important to note that not all women experience vaginal dryness due to hormonal contraceptives. The effects can vary depending on the individual and the specific type of contraceptive used.

How Can Other Factors Contribute to Vaginal Dryness?

Aside from hormonal changes, several other factors can contribute to vaginal dryness. These include:

  • Breastfeeding
  • Certain medications
  • Cancer treatments
  • Irritants
  • Other medical conditions
  • Certain soaps, detergents, or hygiene products

Let's explore these factors in more detail.

How Does Breastfeeding Affect Vaginal Dryness?

When a woman breastfeeds, the baby's sucking on the nipple signals the brain to release prolactin from the pituitary gland. Prolactin is responsible for milk production but also inhibits the release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) from the hypothalamus. GnRH, in turn, produces luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which stimulate the ovaries to produce estrogen.

During breastfeeding, high levels of prolactin suppress the production of GnRH, which leads to a decrease in LH and FSH levels. This decrease, in turn, results in decreased estrogen production by the ovaries, leading to a decrease in circulating levels of estrogen in the body. One of the symptoms of this decrease in estrogen is vaginal dryness in breastfeeding women. The prolactin level in a breastfeeding mother's body can vary depending on factors such as the frequency of breastfeeding, the time of day, and the baby's age.

What Medications Can Cause Vaginal Dryness?

Vaginal dryness is caused by various medications that affect hormonal levels, reduce blood flow to the pelvic area, or directly irritate the vaginal tissues. Some of the medications that may lead to imbalanced hormones and as a result contribute to vaginal dryness are:

  1. Antihistamines are commonly used to treat allergies but can also dry out mucous membranes, including those in the vagina.
  2. Decongestants, similar to antihistamines, can also cause dryness by reducing blood flow to the pelvic area.
  3. Hormonal contraceptives can cause vaginal dryness by affecting estrogen levels.
  4. Chemotherapy drugs can have many side effects, including vaginal dryness, due to the damage they can cause to the ovaries and the decrease in estrogen production.
  5. Anti-estrogen drugs are used to treat certain types of breast cancer, which can also cause vaginal dryness by lowering estrogen levels.
  6. Antidepressants can cause vaginal dryness as a side effect.

How Does Cancer Treatment Affect Vaginal Dryness?

Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, may damage the cells in the vaginal lining, leading to decreased blood flow and reduced production of vaginal lubrication. Chemotherapy can also lower estrogen levels, resulting in vaginal dryness. Conversely, radiation therapy can cause scarring and narrowing of the vagina, making intercourse painful or difficult. This scarring can also limit blood flow to the vaginal tissues, contributing to vaginal dryness.

In some cases, cancer treatments may cause temporary vaginal dryness, while in other cases, the dryness may be more persistent. It is important for women undergoing cancer treatment to discuss any symptoms they may be experiencing with their healthcare providers and explore treatment options to help manage vaginal dryness.

How Do Other Medical Conditions Affect Vaginal Dryness?

Other medical conditions can also cause vaginal dryness. Here are some examples:

  1. Autoimmune disorders: Sjogren's syndrome and other autoimmune disorders can cause dryness in various body parts, including the vagina.
  2. Diabetes: Uncontrolled diabetes can damage nerves and affect blood flow, decreasing vaginal lubrication.
  3. Hypothyroidism: An underactive thyroid gland can cause hormonal imbalances that lead to vaginal dryness.
  4. Allergies: Allergic reactions to certain substances, such as latex or spermicide, can cause irritation and dryness in the vaginal area.
  5. Depression and anxiety: Psychological conditions like depression and anxiety can affect sexual desire and decrease vaginal lubrication.
  6. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): These conditions can disrupt the normal hormonal balance in the body, leading to decreased estrogen levels and other hormones that help maintain vaginal lubrication. This can result in vaginal dryness, discomfort, itching, and pain during sexual intercourse.

Can Certain Soaps, Detergents, or Hygiene Products Cause Vaginal Dryness?

Certain soaps, detergents, or hygiene products have the potential to cause vaginal dryness. This is due to their ability to disturb the natural pH balance of the vagina, which can result in irritation and dryness.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid this uncomfortable situation.

  1. Harsh chemicals, such as sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, and fragrances, can be found in many commercial soaps and detergents. These chemicals can irritate and dry out the delicate skin in the vaginal area. To avoid them, read the product label and look for these chemicals. You can also switch to natural or organic products that do not contain these harsh chemicals.
  2. Feminine hygiene products, such as sprays, douches, and powders, can also contain fragrances, dyes, and preservatives that can disrupt the natural pH balance of the vagina and cause irritation, itching, and dryness. Remember not to put soap or any hygiene product inside the vagina to clean it — your vagina is self-cleaning.  
  3. Scented lotions, perfumes, and soaps should be used cautiously, as they can contain harsh chemicals like feminine hygiene products, including fragrances and preservatives. These chemicals can also disrupt the natural pH balance of the vagina and cause irritation, itching, and dryness.
  4. Latex condoms contain a protein called latex that can cause an allergic reaction in some women, leading to irritation and dryness in the vaginal area. To avoid this, you can consider switching to non-latex condoms or exploring other forms of contraception.
  5. Tight clothing, especially underwear made from synthetic fabrics, can trap moisture and heat in the vaginal area, leading to dryness and irritation. To avoid this, choose loose-fitting clothing from breathable fabrics, such as cotton.

How Can You Prevent Vaginal Dryness?

Dealing with vaginal dryness can be frustrating and uncomfortable. However, rest assured that there are numerous ways to prevent it from occurring. Taking a proactive approach to your health and well-being can help keep your body functioning optimally and avoid the discomfort associated with vaginal dryness.

What Lifestyle Changes Can Help Prevent Vaginal Dryness?

Keeping a healthy lifestyle is crucial to preventing vaginal dryness. Follow these simple tips for a healthier vagina:

  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can keep your body hydrated and prevent dryness in the vaginal area.
  • Avoid irritants: Refrain from using harsh soaps, detergents, or other products that irritate the vaginal area and cause dryness.
  • Wear breathable clothing: Loose-fitting clothing and cotton underwear can prevent moisture buildup and promote airflow to the vaginal area.
  • Avoid douching: Douching or the practice of rinsing or cleaning the inside of the vagina with water or other fluids can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria and other microorganisms in the vagina, leading to an increased risk of infections, dryness, irritation, and other health problems.
  • Regular sexual activity: Regular sexual activity can stimulate vaginal lubrication and maintain the natural elasticity of the vaginal tissue.

What Dietary Changes Can Help Prevent Vaginal Dryness?

To prevent vaginal dryness, you can make some dietary changes, such as the following:

  • Eat a balanced diet: including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can promote overall health and well-being, which can help bring your hormones to balance. This will help prevent vaginal dryness.
  • Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids: Consuming fatty fish, such as salmon, can improve vaginal lubrication.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption: These substances can dehydrate the body and contribute to vaginal dryness.
  • Avoid spicy and sugary foods: Such foods can irritate the vaginal area and lead to dryness and discomfort.

Always consult a doctor or your nutritionist to understand what's best for you in terms of diet & supplements.

What Medications or Supplements Can Help Prevent Vaginal Dryness?

Medications and Supplements: Some medications and supplements can help prevent vaginal dryness as a short-term solution, including:

  • Hormone therapy is a treatment that involves using estrogen to restore moisture to the vaginal tissues. This therapy can be administered through various methods, including oral medications, vaginal creams, or patches. It is recommended for women experiencing severe vaginal dryness or other symptoms of menopause.

  • Vaginal moisturizers are an effective way to keep vaginal tissues hydrated, reducing dryness and discomfort. For the best results, it is recommended to use a vaginal moisturizer daily or at least every two to three days. You can apply it anytime, and it is not necessary to apply it right before sex. However, washing and drying your hands before using a vaginal moisturizer is important. Depending on the product's instructions, you can apply the product with clean fingers or an applicator.

It is essential to use vaginal moisturizers designed for internal use and free from harsh chemicals, fragrances, and preservatives that can irritate delicate vaginal tissue. Water-based lubricants can also be used before sex to make it more comfortable.

Examples of vaginal moisturizers available in India include Vagisil Feminine Moisturizer, RepHresh Vaginal Moisturizer, and Clean and Dry Intimate Moisturizing Lotion. It is important to follow the instructions provided with the product to achieve the best results.

  • Vaginal lubricants can reduce friction and discomfort during sexual activity. They can also be used regularly to maintain vaginal moisture levels. Look for water-based lubricants free from fragrances, preservatives, and other irritating ingredients. Some water-based vaginal lubricants in India include Durex Play Feel Lubricant, Kamasutra Long Lasting Lubricant, and JoyDivision Aquaglide Lubricant.
  • Vitamin E suppositories can be inserted into the vagina to soothe and hydrate the vaginal tissue. Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and irritation in the vaginal area. Some examples of vitamin E suppositories in India are Key-e Suppositories from Carlson Labs, Natural Vitamin E Suppositories from Sirona, and Vitamin E Suppositories from Nature's Plus.
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone naturally produced by the body. It is effective in treating vaginal dryness and other symptoms of menopause. DHEA is available in supplement form and can be purchased over the counter or online. Talking to a healthcare provider before taking DHEA is important, as it can have potential side effects.
  • Ospemifene is a medication that treats vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse. It works by stimulating the estrogen receptors in the vaginal tissue, which can help increase lubrication and reduce discomfort. Ospemifene is available in tablet form and is typically taken once a day.
  • Laser therapy uses a laser to stimulate collagen production in the vaginal tissue. This can help improve vaginal elasticity and increase moisture levels. Laser therapy is a non-invasive procedure that can be done in a healthcare provider's office. It typically requires multiple sessions for the best results.

How Can Other Preventative Measures Help?

Other Preventative Measures that help prevent vaginal dryness include:

  • Quitting smoking: Smoking reduces blood flow to the vaginal area, contributing to dryness.
  • Managing stress: Stress can cause hormonal imbalances that contribute to vaginal dryness.
  • Regular exercise: Exercise can improve overall health and well-being, which can, in turn, help prevent vaginal dryness. Remember to wear breathable, loose fabrics! 
  • Using a humidifier: Using a humidifier can help add moisture to the air and prevent dryness in the vaginal area.

In conclusion, vaginal dryness is a common condition that affects many women, especially those going through menopause or undergoing certain medical treatments. If this is you, know that you’re not alone. However, it's important to understand that this issue need not be accepted as part of ageing and can be improved through various lifestyle changes and treatments. 

By maintaining a healthy hormonal balance through proper nutrition, exercise, stress management, and seeking medical advice, women can reduce their risk of vaginal dryness and its associated discomforts. Whether through over-the-counter lubricants, hormone therapy, or alternative remedies, numerous options are available to help women address this issue and enjoy a better quality of life. 

So if you're experiencing symptoms of vaginal dryness, don't suffer in silence. Take steps today to improve your hormonal balance and reclaim your sexual and reproductive health.