Vaginal Dryness: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment | Uqora
6 min read | June 20, 24

Why is My Vagina Dry?

Medically Reviewed by: Heather Ott

Written by: Sareena Rama

Article summary

Vaginal dryness is a prominent concern for females, but is often an overlooked issue. Vaginal dryness can be caused by a variety of factors such as hormonal fluctuations, certain medications, stress, and underlying medical conditions. Some common remedies include over-the-counter products, hormone replacement therapy, and lifestyle adjustments.

Why is My Vagina Dry?

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Many females often wonder about vaginal dryness, but may feel hesitant to discuss it openly. You are not alone if you are asking "Why is my vagina dry?". We understand that this experience can extend beyond just physical discomfort and could be affecting your daily life and intimate relationships. In this article we will cover the common causes of vaginal dryness, why it matters, and, most importantly, steps on how to address it.

Understanding Vaginal Dryness

Vaginal dryness is an uncomfortable and sometimes painful condition that occurs when vaginal tissues become dry and thin, leading to a lack of moisture and lubrication. It can significantly impact your quality of life, leading to bothersome symptoms like itching and burning, especially during sex. It may also contribute to recurrent urinary tract infections (rUTIs) and yeast infections(1).

If you have experienced vaginal dryness, you are not alone. Vaginal dryness may be more common than you think and can occur at any age. According to Cleveland Clinic, about 17% of women ages 18 to 50 have experienced vaginal dryness before menopause, whereas after menopause, this can increase to over 50%(1).

Causes of Vaginal Dryness

Remember that vaginal dryness is not your fault –some people may be more likely to experience this than others.

Understanding and addressing the cause of vaginal dryness can be a beneficial first step to finding relief and finding ways to support your overall vaginal health.

Here are some of the common causes of vaginal dryness:

  • Hormonal changes: A decrease in estrogen levels during menopause can lead to the thinning of vaginal tissues and reduced moisture production. Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and breastfeeding can also contribute to vaginal dryness(2). Menstruation can also result in vaginal dryness, as estrogen levels decrease in the days leading up to your period, for those who are not on hormonal birth control(3).
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as cold medications, allergy medications, some antidepressants, and very low-dose hormonal birth controls, can have side effects that reduce vaginal lubrication(3,4).
  • Difficulties with arousal: Inadequate sexual arousal or foreplay before intercourse can result in insufficient natural lubrication(5).
  • Medical conditions: Some medical conditions can affect how your body produces or regulates fluids, causing vaginal dryness(5).
  • Chemical irritants: Harsh soaps, douches, and scented hygiene products can lead to dryness(2).

Remedies and Treatments

While vaginal dryness isn't always avoidable, there are some remedies and treatments you can consider for relief:

  • OTC moisturizers and lubricants: Water-based lubricants can provide temporary relief during sexual activity. Vaginal moisturizers applied regularly can also help maintain moisture levels over time(2).
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): For females , HRT can replace estrogen levels, alleviating vaginal dryness and other associated symptoms(5). Additionally, localized estrogen therapy, in the form of creams, rings, or tablets, can target the vagina area specifically(4). We always recommend consulting your doctor to see if these options are right for your specific needs.

Overall, if vaginal dryness is impacting your daily life and well-being in any way, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor to help determine the potential cause and explore treatment options right for you.

Proactive Measures

In some cases, you may be able to take proactive steps to help minimize the occurrence of vaginal dryness. Here are some proactive measures to consider:

  • Stay hydrated: Drink an adequate amount of water daily to support overall hydration and maintain moisture levels in the body(1). For information about how much water you should drink, learn more here.
  • Avoid irritants:. Many feminine and vulva washes out there can include irritating ingredients like added scents and essential oils. If you’re looking for a feminine or vulva wash – opt for pH-Balanced vulva cleanser with minimal ingredients(2).
  • Use lubricants during sex: Use a water-based lubricant during sex to reduce friction and enhance comfort. Steer clear of oil-based lubricants as they can compromise latex condoms, increasing the risk of breakage or tearing(2).
  • Regular health checkups: Scheduling regular checkups with your healthcare provider can help to address any changes to your vaginal health. For females approaching or experiencing menopause, you and your doctor can explore how to best manage the fluctuations in your hormones that could contribute to vaginal dryness.

Impact on Intimacy and Well-Being

We understand how challenging vaginal dryness can be not only physically, but also for intimacy and your mental health. Vaginal dryness can make having sex uncomfortable and painful, leading to a decreased interest in intimacy or potentially put strain on your romantic relationships.

Talking about vaginal dryness can be uncomfortable and it is normal to feel hesitant to share what you are experiencing. However, it is more common than you think. Open communication with partners as well as your healthcare provider are key to helping you feel comfortable and confident in your body.

Seeking Professional Help

If you are looking for more support, seeking help from your doctor can be a beneficial next step in understanding and addressing the underlying causes of your vaginal dryness.

The first step you can take is scheduling an appointment with a gynecologist or healthcare provider, where you can have an open and detailed discussion about vaginal dryness symptoms. Your appointment could include a discussion of your medical history or a physical exam including pelvic and vaginal assessments, this can help pinpoint any physical factors that could be contributing to dryness.

If your doctor suspects hormonal imbalances may be linked to your vaginal dryness, a pelvic exam or blood test may be necessary to address the root cause. Based on the results, your doctor can help recommend potential medications or treatments to support your vaginal health.

It may feel daunting to take these first steps, but you are not alone in this journey. Through open conversations with your doctors, partners, and even friends you are one step closer to feeling like your best self again.

Why is My Vagina Dry? Frequently Asked Questions

What are the common causes of vaginal dryness?

Vaginal dryness can stem from a number of factors, the most common being a decrease in estrogen. Just before your period, during menopause, or while breastfeeding are all times when you may experience fluctuations in estrogen levels(2,3). Certain medications can also contribute to lack of lubrication as a side effect(4).

Additionally, medical treatments like pelvic area radiation or chemotherapy for cancer may impact vaginal moisture.

It's important for anyone experiencing persistent vaginal dryness symptoms to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options.

Can hormonal changes, such as menopause or childbirth, lead to vaginal dryness?

Yes, hormonal changes, notably during menopause or after childbirth, can indeed lead to vaginal dryness(4). A female is considered to have hit menopause when they have not had a period consecutively in the last 12 months. The natural decline in estrogen that occurs as a female approaches menopause causes changes in the menstrual cycle. The change in menstrual cycle leads to the natural decline of estrogen levels.

Estrogen plays a crucial role in maintaining the thickness and elasticity of the vaginal tissues, as well as promoting natural lubrication. As estrogen decreases, the vaginal lining may become thinner, less elastic, and produce less moisture, resulting in vaginal dryness(1).

Similarly, childbirth, especially if accompanied by breastfeeding, can bring about hormonal fluctuations that contribute to dryness. These changes can affect a woman's sexual well-being, potentially causing discomfort or pain during intercourse(1).

To address the vaginal dryness associated with hormonal shifts we always recommend consulting with a healthcare professional who can recommend appropriate treatments to alleviate symptoms and enhance overall vaginal health(5).

How does stress or certain medications affect vaginal moisture?

Stress can disrupt the body's natural hormonal balance, impacting vaginal moisture production(2). Additionally, certain medications, such as certain antidepressants and allergy medications, may have side effects that reduce vaginal lubrication,which can contribute to vaginal dryness and discomfort(4).

What are the symptoms or signs that indicate vaginal dryness?

Everybody is different and vaginal dryness can feel different for each individual. Females may notice the following(5):

  • Discomfort or pain during intercourse: Inadequate natural lubrication can lead to pain or discomfort during sexual activity.
  • Itching and burning sensation: Vaginal dryness can be accompanied by itching and burning, making daily activities uncomfortable.
  • Urinary issues: Some individuals may experience increased frequency of urination, and vaginal dryness may be a cause of UTIs due to changes in the vaginal environment.
  • Reduced libido: Discomfort and pain associated with vaginal dryness can lead to a decreased interest in sexual activity, impacting overall sexual well-being.

Note: references to "female," "women," "male," and "men" in this article refer to sex assigned at birth, not gender.

Author

Sareena Rama manages Uqora’s Digital Content and is responsible for Uqora's social media, newsletters, and contributing articles to the UTI Learning Center.

Reviewer

Heather Ott is Uqora's Senior Health and Science Educator. She supports the team by writing Learning Center articles and reviewing all scientific communications.

References

  1. Vaginal dryness: Causes, symptoms & treatment. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/21027-vaginal-dryness
  2. Vaginal dryness. Mount Sinai Health System. (n.d.). https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/diseases-conditions/vaginal-dryness
  3. Rauenhorst, K. (2023, July 7). Vaginal dryness: Symptoms, remedies. Mayo Clinic Health System. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/vaginal-dryness-symptoms-causes-and-remedies
  4. Abraham, C. (n.d.). Experiencing Vaginal Dryness? Here's What You Need to Know. ACOG. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/experts-and-stories/the-latest/experiencing-vaginal-dryness-heres-what-you-need-to-know
  5. Vaginal dryness. (2022, January 10). Nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaginal-dryness/
  6. The impact of stress reduction techniques on sexual health. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2024, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/impact-stress-reduction-techniques-sexual-health-apollopharmacy-p7vbf
  7. Goncharenko, V., Bubnov, R., Polivka, J., Zubor, P., Biringer, K., Bielik, T., Kuhn, W., & Golubnitschaja, O. (2019, March 2). Vaginal dryness: Individualized patient profiles, risks and mitigating measures. The EPMA journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6459457/