Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Vaginal dryness

3-minute read

Vaginal dryness can be problem for women at all ages, but it is more common in older women, particularly after menopause. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to relieve vaginal dryness.

What is vaginal dryness?

Vaginal moisture is mainly produced at the top of the vagina by the cervix. The moisture is slightly acidic to fight against infections, such as thrush.

When women have sex, two glands (called Bartholin’s glands) produce extra moisture to provide good lubrication during intercourse. However, lack of moisture during sex can become a problem.

Any woman can be affected by vaginal dryness, although it is most common in women who have experienced the menopause. It affects over half of women aged 51 to 60 years. Around a quarter of women in this age group experience dryness during sex and some women experience pain. If you are in pain, talk to your doctor about what can be done to help, including possible medicines you can take.

What causes vaginal dryness?

The most common cause of vaginal dryness is reduced levels of oestrogen, the female hormone that maintains normal vaginal lubrication, tissue elasticity and acidity.

Many women find vaginal dryness a problem after menopause as a result of the lack of oestrogen in their bodies. As a result of this, the vagina loses elasticity and the lining becomes thinner and dryer. Further irritation can also occur as the vagina becomes less acidic and loses some of the bacteria used to fight against infections.

There are a number of other causes of vaginal dryness. These include:

  • stress
  • not enough foreplay or arousal
  • use of hygiene products, such as feminine sprays and harsh soaps
  • use of swimming pool and hot tub chemicals
  • use of certain washing powders
  • breastfeeding, as a result of low oestrogen levels
  • some types of contraception

Certain medicines, such as allergy treatments or antidepressants, can also dry the vagina and vaginal tissues.

Pre-menopausal women who have had their ovaries removed during a hysterectomy may also have a dry vagina as a result of a loss of oestrogen. Women who have had chemotherapy for cancer may also experience this.

How is vaginal dryness treated?

Many women are reluctant to talk to their doctor about vaginal dryness but there are treatments that can help.

Lubrications and vaginal moisturisers can ease the symptoms of a dry vagina. Water-based lubricants can be used for intercourse (non-water based lubricants can damage condoms). You can buy these products at your local pharmacy or supermarket and you do not need a prescription.

If you are menopausal, hormonal treatments, such as vaginal oestrogen creams and tablets can also help. Talk to your doctor about the options.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your vaginal dryness, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2019


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Premature and early menopause - Better Health Channel

The symptoms of premature or early menopause are the same as for menopause at any age.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

RANZCOG - Menopause

Menopause is often referred to as the ‘change of life’ because it marks the end of a woman’s reproductive life. Menopause literally means that a woman has had her last (or final) menstrual period.

Read more on RANZCOG - Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website

What is Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT) and is it safe? - Australasian Menopause Society

What is Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT) and is it safe?

Read more on Australasian Menopause Society website

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and menopause - Better Health Channel

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can reduce menopausal symptoms, but the benefits and risks need to be considered carefully.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT)

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), now more commonly known as menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), is not a quick fix for the challenge of menopause, but it can reduce troublesome symptoms.

Read more on myDr website

Menopause management | Jean Hailes

Management and treatment of menopausal symptoms depends on each individual woman. Healthy living, natural and complementary therapies including herbs and phytoestrogens, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), some antidepressant medications and medications ty

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Menopause Women Continence Foundation of Australia

Menopause is a time of change in a woman's life. One of the changes many women notice is increased difficulty with bladder and bowel control.

Read more on Continence Foundation of Australia website

Health after menopause | Jean Hailes

At the same time you are menopausal there are a lot of other areas of your health that you can keep an eye on. It is important to keep up Pap smear tests, breast checks, watch your diet, blood pressure and cholesterol to ensure good cardiovascular health

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Menopause and weight gain - Better Health Channel

Weight gain at menopause can be managed using healthy eating and exercise; HRT may also be beneficial.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Tips for a Great Sex Life after Menopause | myVMC

Menopause can affect a woman's sex life, but there aresome strategies that can help women overcome negative factors influencing their sexual function. Keeping a healthy body and mind and engaging in regular, varied sexual activity are some important aspects of maintaining sexual function after menopause.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo