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A Prickly Subject - Vaginal Dryness
Many women suffer in silence: one of the many unexpected effects of menopause is the vaginal dryness it can cause. While this rather dry subject matter rarely makes headlines, it affects between 40% and 60% of menopausal women. Your sex life doesn’t need to become a challenge: if you just scratch at the surface of the problem, you’ll find out that there are some all-natural solutions out there that will improve the situation… Vaginal dryness or atrophy is a common menopausal symptom that causes discomfort, itching, a burning sensation, pain and even some minor bleeding during sex or urination. Whether or not you’re bothered by it, you still need to treat the symptoms, as they can lead to vaginal or urinary tract infections.
The causesOne of the roles of estrogen (yup, it’s ba-aack!) is to lubricate the vaginal walls and mucosa. The mucosa usually maintain an acidic pH that fosters a healthy vaginal flora. As menopause approaches, estrogen levels drop, taking lubrication along with it. The walls of the vagina thin out and become more sensitive and less elastic. The vaginal pH changes too, becoming more alkaline, which fosters bacterial growth. But above and beyond hormones, a wide assortment of factors can cause or contribute to vaginal dryness:
- An infection (sexually transmitted, viral or bacterial)
- Medications, especially antihistamines, which dry out the mucosa (and not just in the nose)
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments
- Smoking and drinking
- Vaginal douches
- Allergies to soap, fragrances, etc.
- Emotional problems like anxiety or depression, and even marital troubles, all of which can put the brakes on desire and the lubrication that typically follows
- Stress, which is an important contributing factor to vaginal dryness and may even be the cause
- Insufficient foreplay: Remember the old saying, Slow and steady wins the race?