There are a couple reasons you might be feeling dry down there.
Most women know that they might need some extra lubricant down there as they age. Indeed, vaginal dryness after menopause is typical and expected, according to the National Institute on Aging. However, what if you’re younger — even decades from menopause? Is it normal to have vaginal dryness in your 20s or 30s, too?
Vaginal tissue stays lubricated thanks to estrogen. Any drop in estrogen can lead to a drop in natural lubrication. As estrogen levels decrease, vaginal tissue thins out. As a result, the tissue may become dry and inflamed.
What causes vaginal dryness in younger women?
For younger women, vaginal dryness is often related to taking birth control pills and other medications. This may happen after a year of two of taking birth control pills, and not necessarily right away.
Here are other possible causes of vaginal dryness in younger women:
- Irritants (more on this below)
Because of their effect on hormones, certain medications used to treat conditions can often affect vaginal lubrication, too. This includes medications for breast cancer, fibroids, infertility, and endometriosis.
What irritants may affect lubrication?
A drop in estrogen isn’t the only reason you might be drying up. Irritants to avoid include:
- Scented soaps and bubble baths
These irritants can destroy good bacteria in the vagina. As a result, this could lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria and an increased risk of bacterial vaginosis. This infection is the most common vaginal infection among women ages 15 to 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What are options for treatment?
Vaginal dryness is treatable. Options include:
- Avoiding irritants in the vagina
- Applying lubricants for sex
- Using estrogen creams, which can help your body produce more natural lubrication
- Having more regular sex with a trusted partner, which may help improve vaginal flexibility and lubrication
If you're concerned about your vaginal dryness, talk to your doctor. They may be able to provide suggestions based on your personal health factors.
Dr. Wu is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist practicing in New York City.
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Older patients often do complain
about vaginal dryness, but
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we also see it in younger patients.
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This is often secondary
to birth control use,
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especially low-dose birth control use.
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When you have a drop in estrogen levels,
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then the tissues in the vagina become
drier and thinner and less flexible.
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Patients are often surprised about this
and they don't see it right at the start
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of birth control use, they'll see
it perhaps after a year or two.
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Anything that alters your hormones such
as medications or breast feeding or
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pregnancy can then alter
the tissues of the vagina and
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make them drier, less flexible,
make it more painful for sex.
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For patients that have vaginal
dryness because of low estrogen,
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this may be patients who are menopausal or
patients who are breastfeeding,
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we can actually replace the estrogen in
the vagina by giving an estrogen cream.
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The estrogen cream is used
a couple times a week and
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patients will usually see
a response in the first week.
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If the patient is experiencing
vaginal dryness due to
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some sort of contact irritant, I have
them eliminate it from their daily use.
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I tell patients to avoid
perfumed soaps and
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bubble baths, avoid douches,
avoid any wipes.
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They can kill the good
bacteria in the vagina and
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they have an overgrowth
of the bad bacteria.
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This can result in a discharge
that's very fishy.
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It's something called bacteria vaginosis.
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My best prescription for vaginal dryness
and difficulties with sex is to have sex.
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You want the vagina to be used
to having sex and regular sex,
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one to two times a week, can keep
the vagina flexible and lubricated.
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Bacterial vaginosis - CDC fact sheet. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on January 10, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/std/BV/STDFact-Bacterial-Vaginosis.htm.)
Vaginal dryness. Washington, DC: U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on January 10, 2021 at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000892.htm.)
Vaginal dryness alternative treatments. Washington, DC: U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on January 10, 2021 at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002142.htm.)What are the signs and symptoms of menopause? Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Aging. (Accessed on January 10, 2021 at https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-are-signs-and-symptoms-menopause.)