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Why is estrogen important for women's sexual health?

Estrogen is important for women's sexual health because it is critical for keeping things moist, healthy and flexible down there. The vagina, clitoris, urethra (the tube leading from the outside of the body to the bladder), bladder and other urogenital components all contain significant numbers of estrogen receptors. That means they rely on estrogen for healthy functioning. As estrogen levels decline and less reaches these tissues, they literally atrophy or shrink, not just dry up -- sometimes resulting in a significant negative effect on women's sex life.

Without sufficient estrogen, the vagina becomes dry and less acidic, increasing the risk of infection. It takes longer to get lubricated for sex, even if women are ready and full of desire. Over time, estrogen deficiency can lead to more significant changes in the entire urinary/genital area, including reduced blood flow to the vagina, and the tissue itself becomes thin and weak. The result: dryness, irritation and pain upon intercourse, also called dyspareunia.

Estrogen loss also can lead to changes in the size and sensitivity of the vulva, vagina and clitoris, as well as reducing blood flow to these areas.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

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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.