“It's a totally ridiculous, completely unsexy word. If you use it during sex, trying to be politically correct– 'Darling, could you stroke my vagina?' – you kill the act right there. I'm worried about vaginas, what we call them and don't call them.”
- Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues
Not only do women sometimes have a difficult time hearing the word vagina but talking about their vagina’s is even more stressful for them. So when women begin to experience vaginal dryness, there seems to be such discomfort and shame about what is occurring within their vaginas.
Vaginal dryness is the lack of lubrication often occurring around peri/post menopause; however, certain immune diseases, smoking, breastfeeding, pregnancy, chemo and radiation, medications, and douching can lead to vaginal dryness.
When women transition into menopause, the lack of estrogen effect on the lining of the vaginal walls causes the walls to thin and atrophy. The vagina during states of arousal enlongate and expand along with lubricate allowing for intercourse. As a woman reaches menopause and after, her vagina is slower in the sexual response and dryness may cause intercourse to be painful.
Women may experience symptoms of itching, burning, soreness, bleeding and pain during and after intercourse, urinary symptoms and urinary tract infections. Seeing your healthcare provider for a pelvic exam, pap smear, urinalysis, and lab testing is necessary to diagnose vaginal atrophy but also to rule out other possible causes.
Treating vaginal dryness with estrogen creams, tablets, and rings can be very effective and I prescribe these routinely for women. Options of bio-identical hormone replacement are also an option. I counsel women on the necessary usage of lubricants and moisturizers. Astroglide and Silk are very effective lubricants and Replens is a helpful moisturizer. It is necessary to avoid douching, hand lotions, hot tubs (prolonged and frequent use), bubble baths, perfumes and harsh detergents.
Often women express that it must be time for them to stop having a sexual life because of vaginal dryness. Remember that sexuality is an integrated experience not limited to a physical experience. A woman’s mental, emotional, and spiritual life are also very integral to her sexuality. As we all age, the sexual response may and will take a bit longer to reach, but knowing how to integrate the fullness of a woman’s entire being, not limited to a vagina, is the key to lubricating sexuality into a pleasurable experience. So ladies, despite the idea that vagina may not be a comfortable word, your vagina is designed to be a comfortable place for your pleasure, even when things change and you age.
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Sherri Aikin is a Fellow of Integrative Medicine, Nurse Practitioner, Sex Counselor, Mindfulness Facilitator, and Life Coach.
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