Do you have a dehydrated vagina? The subtle signs you do – and how it’s affecting your life without you even realising
ave you experienced a burning sensation when passing urine? Soreness down below? Pain during sex? Whilst these could be the signs of a vaginal infection, it could actually be down to your vagina being dehydrated. I had zero clue a vagina could be dehydrated either but according to Cheyenne Swaby, a Urogynecology Surgical Nurse and WooWoo’s Intimate Health Expert, it's hugely common. Speaking about the rise in vaginal dehydration, which is called vaginal atrophy in the medical world, she said: "Women experience vaginal dryness when the vagina is less lubricated and this could be a result of many different factors such as hormonal changes, PH imbalance cause by infection, medications, stress and anxiety." Whilst vaginal dryness is a very common condition which can affect females of all ages, she notes it most commonly affects women going through the menopause.
With Cheyenne’s help, we have broken down everything you need to know about having a dehydrated vagina, including the signs, possible reasons and remedies.
What does it mean to have a dehydrated vagina?
According to Cheyenne, as females, we naturally create a lubrication which is produced by the glands located within the neck of the uterus (cervix). This natural lubricant keeps the vagina very moist and supple. It helps to cleanse the vagina and removes dead cells and harmful bacteria – and this is exactly why you will experience vaginal discharge.
However, high levels of estrogen (caused by hormonal changes, PH imbalance cause by infection, medications, stress and anxiety) wreaks havoc with this. “Estrogen is the main cause of vaginal dryness,” she notes. “Estrogen is a primary dominant female sex hormone that we need for the development and reproduction of our whole female reproductive system. It has many other functions but its main priority is to regulate our menstrual cycle. When there are lower levels of estrogen within the blood stream, it causes the endometrium (the lining of our womb/uterus) to become thinner. In turn, this then causes the lips (vulva) to become less elastic, as there is less moisture and lubrication secretion.”
What causes this to happen?
- Douching (there is a lot of controversy about whether douching is right or wrong)
- Irritants such as perfumed soaps, feminine hygiene products that contain a lot of fragrances and chemicals will eventually create an unhealthy environment for a vagina, causing PH imbalance and overgrowth of bacteria, resulting in infections such as bacterial vaginosis (BV) and thrush
- Hormonal changes and fluctuations such as when women are within the postnatal stages, breastfeeding, or going through chemotherapy and radiotherapy
- Having your ovaries surgically removed or a hysterectomy can trigger the effects of vaginal dryness as it naturally activates menopause to start due to the loss of hormones.
- Contraceptives: some methods of contraception can cause vaginal dryness. You can discuss your options with your GP/family doctor to recommend the best options to avoid this issue occurring
So what are the signs of a dehydrated vagina?
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Redness / soreness within the vulva area and inside the vaginal canal
- Some individuals may experience itching episodes
- Pain during sexual intercourse (penetration of the penis entering the vagina when there is not much moisture or natural lubrication within the vagina could cause vaginal tears due to friction. This is generally very painful and could later cause light spotting or bleeding in between periods)
- Vaginitis, which is inflammation of the vagina that can result in abnormal discharge, itching, burning and pain. This is caused by changes to the natural PH of the vagina from overgrowth of bacteria. When there is a reduction of estrogen (dominant female sex hormone) this could be the primary cause of inflammation, accompanied by vaginal dryness
Why can vaginal dryness be bad for your overall vaginal health?
“Vaginal dryness can be a very embarrassing for women to talk about, however it needs to be addressed to avoid further vaginal health problems,” says Cheyenne. “Being vigilant and looking out for the signs and symptoms of vaginal dryness can helps towards treating it quickly and effectively.”
Ways to rectify vaginal dryness
Whilst discussing vaginal dryness with a health professional or even with your partner/friends or family can be a very daunting experience, it’s an important step for your health. Your GP or family doctor can help you to make informed decisions about different types of treatment plans available and suitable for your needs.
Cheyenne says there are a plethora of treatment options, from over the counter and prescribed medications to natural remedies.
Over the counter and prescribed medications include:
- Vaginal esteogen (in the form of a pill)
- Vaginal moisturers
- Vaginal lubricants (water or silicone based) such as WooWoo’s arousal boosting lube
- Vaginal esteogen rings
- Hormonal replacement therapy – which helps to increase esteogen levels (commonly used by individuals going through menopause).
Natural remedies include:
- Taking time to enjoy foreplay before sexual intercourse can help give the Bartholins gland time to produce the maximum amount of lubrication, to help with sexual arousal
- Avoid douching and using scented soaps as these act as irritants, disturbing the natural PH of the vagina which causes infections and vagina dryness
- Try using lubricants that are paraben-free. The less irritants you use, the happier your vagina and vulva will be
- Incorporating more phytoestrogens type foods with your diet such as soya, seeds, nuts and tofu could potentially help with vaginal dryness as these foods can help to increase estrogen levels
If you’re experiencing symptoms of a dehydrated vagina then speak to your GP for more advice