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Vaginal dryness

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

When women have sex, two glands (called Bartholin’s glands) produce extra moisture in order to provide good lubrication during intercourse. However, lack of moisture during sex can become a problem. There can be a number of reasons for this, such as:

  • lack of foreplay
  • not feeling aroused
  • relationship problems
  • feelings of guilt or worry
  • as a result of breastfeeding, as oestrogen levels are low.

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.

Causes of vaginal dryness

A dry vagina can be treated fairly easily by using lubrications. Water based lubricants can be used for intercourse. These are available to buy at your local pharmacy or supermarket and you do not need a prescription. Non water based lubricants can damage condoms.

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 51-60 year olds. Around a quarter of women aged between 50-59 experience dryness during sex and some women experience pain. If you are in pain, get advice on medicines you can take.

There are a number of reasons why vaginal dryness may occur. These include:

  • menopause (when persistent vaginal dryness may occur)
  • stress
  • not enough foreplay or arousal
  • use of hygiene products, such as feminine sprays and harsh soaps
  • swimming pool and hot tub chemicals
  • washing powders
  • breastfeeding or childbirth
  • low levels of oestrogen
  • some types of contraception
  • cancer treatment.

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 hormones. People who have had chemotherapy may also experience this.

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).

Last reviewed: October 2017

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