How can I relieve vaginal dryness caused by menopause?

Dr. Jennifer L. Ashton, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

To relieve vaginal dryness caused by menopause, there are a few options including localized vaginal estrogen creams or pills, and coconut oil (a totally natural solution). Watch as OBGYN Jennifer Ashton, MD, discusses these treatment options.

Staness Jonekos
Health Education Specialist

There is good news.

  • Option #1: If vaginal dryness is your only menopause symptom, you may consider using an estrogen cream applied vaginally.
  • Option #2: Low dose hormone therapy may bring relief.
  • Option #3: A bioadhesive lubricant, such as AstroGlide that can be purchased over-the-counter, may bring instant relief.

Going through a dry spell can have more than one meaning for menopausal women. For sexually active women over the age of 50, 39 percent say vaginal dryness gets in the way of bedroom activities. Luckily, vaginal dryness is just as treatable as it is common. A survey found that genital pain was reported in less than 5 percent of sexual encounters when personal lubricant was used. Bonus: it also made sex more satisfying and pleasurable. During sex and foreplay, experiment with oil-, silicone- or water-based lubricants. In addition, use personal moisturizers like Replens to maintain moisture on a regular basis, not just during intercourse. Another option is topical estrogen, either as a vaginal estrogen cream, or an estrogen tablets or rings for insertion into the vagina. These are considred safe and effective, as is ospemifene (Osphena), an oral prescription medication that is not a hormone but works like estrogen in the uterus.

Ask your healthcare provider about these prescription medications.

Estrogen, a natural hormone produced by the body, helps keep the vagina lubricated and supple. Following menopause, as estrogen levels decline, the vagina becomes drier and the vaginal wall thins. Sex may become painful. The wall of the urethra becomes thinner, too, as estrogen levels fall, and increases the risk of more frequent urinary tract infections. Urine leakage may become a problem as muscle support for the bladder and urethra weakens. (This may also occur from strain on tissues as a result of childbirth).

Strategies for coping with vaginal dryness and frequent urinary infections include:

  • Use nonhormonal vaginal creams or gels (prescription or nonprescription).
  • If moisturizers and lubricants are not enough, vaginal estrogen (a prescription medication) is available as creams, rings or tablets.
  • Drink plenty of water to help your body stay hydrated.
  • Use long-lasting vaginal moisturizers.
  • Exercising to maintain muscle tone.

Practice Kegel techniques to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder and urethra. Kegel exercises help firm the vaginal canal, control urine flow and enhance orgasm. To make sure you know how to contract your pelvic floor muscles correctly, try to stop the flow of urine while you're going to the bathroom. If you can do this, you've found the right muscles.

To do Kegel exercises, empty your bladder and sit or lie down. Contract your pelvic floor muscles for three seconds, then relax for three seconds. Repeat 10 times. Once you've perfected the three-second contractions, try doing the exercise for four seconds at a time and then resting for four seconds, repeating 10 times. Gradually work up to keeping your pelvic floor muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds in between. Aim to complete a set of 10 exercises, three times a day.

Tell your healthcare professional about any medications you're taking. Some may worsen vaginal dryness. Also, if you have a urinary tract infection, you may need antibiotics.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.