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Vaginal dryness can be overcome

More than one woman in six women says that she sometimes suffers from vaginal dryness. This problem can have psychological consequences and affect relationships, leading to a drop in libido. There are some simple solutions to help you overcome vaginal dryness.

Vaginal dryness
© Thinkstock

Vaginal dryness, which is sometimes a temporary condition, can affect women at different times in their lives. More common during the menopause, it makes a woman more vulnerable to gynaecological infections and can disrupt a couple’s sexual harmony. A recent survey* by the Louis Harris Institute on behalf of Polivé Laboratories comes up with the following findings.

The causes of vaginal dryness are often little-known

Vaginal dryness is a problem that is well known among women. 68% have heard about it, mainly from the media (47%) or from their doctor or gynaecologist (22%).

Despite that, it appears that many women don’t know so much about why it happens. On the whole, hormonal causes are cited by as many women suffering from vaginal dryness (54%), as those who are aware of the problem (47%). Amongst the causes most often mentioned are the menopause, hormonal changes and pregnancy. After that, the main factors to get the blame are psychological, vaginal infections, stress and medical treatments.

There are however, other causes: vaginal lubrication can also be affected by cigarettes, alcohol or unsuitable feminine hygiene products.

Not an embarrassing subject for women

Unlike other personal problems, women broach the vaginal dryness subject quite easily. More than 80% have spoken about it to people around them: most of them to their gynaecologist or doctor (72%) or to a lesser extent to their partner (44%). 56% of women under the age of 40 confide in their partner, which is a sign of better communication between younger couples. For the most part, the partner reacts in a positive way, since 63% mention that their partners reacted well. Only 5% came back as getting a negative reaction.

The subject of vaginal dryness is more easily brought up (for 85% of those who talked about it) than other personal subjects such as sexual intercourse (67%), personal hygiene (64%), STDs (61%) or incontinence (54%).

But contrary to what you may think, broaching the subject doesn’t mean that you’re getting treatment for it. Most women are treating it or getting treatment (64%), mainly with a vaginal lubricant (68% of these). But 21% haven’t seen a doctor or haven’t treated it, judging it to be a temporary or minor problem.

Repercussions for the couple

However, vaginal dryness isn’t a minor experience, either physically or mentally. 43% of women affected talk about it being painful and 44% of them consider the psychological repercussions to be trying.

Two groups of women appear to be the most susceptible: pain is more readily reported by women under stress (55%) and by those under the age of 40 (53%), just like the mental effects (reported by 59% and 53% respectively). 44% of women even brought up depression linked to vaginal dryness. For 85% of them, it is painful to have sex and 83% have experienced a drop in sexual activity.

As Dr. Hélène Jacquemin says, “Without water, there’s no life, and that’s why the word dryness makes you think that something’s not there, it’s missing, lost. That holds even more truth in this day and age, where health is synonymous with youth. What people want is a supple, firm body full of life, like a tree filled with sap.”

So, 57% of women consider that vaginal dryness has been or is the cause of serious problems in their relationship. In this area too, women under the age of 40 are more affected. Amongst the women who don’t treat it, more than 5% have stopped having sex altogether

Vaginal dryness for post-menopausal women

The menopause can be defined as when the ovaries stop working resulting in an oestrogen deficiency, which is responsible for the well-known clinical signs of hot flushes, weight gain, aging of the skin, etc. For hormonal reasons, post-menopausal women are the first to be affected by vaginal dryness. So, more of them have heard about it. Even though physically and mentally it appears to be less trying, nevertheless 80% say that vaginal dryness causes pain during sex, as well as relationship problems (53%), a huge amount of stress (39%), depression (26%) or pain when exercising (17%).

Today, the sex lives of women over 50 is not such a taboo subject and fewer and fewer people are resignedly accepting menopausal problems in a fatalistic way. Although a lower sex-drive can sometimes fit in with a hormonal explanation, it is more often the result of several factors.

“You can’t talk about a woman’s love-life at the time of the menopause without touching on her past love-life. The fuller and more fulfilled it has been, the easier it will be for her to get through the menopause. On the contrary, unsatisfied women will see this event as an excuse, an alibi to escape what they consider to be a duty,” says Dr. Jacquemin.

More often career women who are better informed than their mothers and grandmothers, women of the “Pill generation” want to stay “at their best” and sexually active.

Keeping pleasure alive

Although post-menopausal women talk easily enough about vaginal dryness to their doctor (nearly 80%), they appear to be more reticent to discuss it with their partner (only 37% compared to 44% of all the women). However, talking about vaginal dryness can also be a way of recognising that desire for sex is not dead, that sexuality exists and that help might be needed to feel pleasure once again.

A greater knowledge of the condition is leading these women to get treatment (72% compared to 64% of all the women): 68% use topical treatment and 40% use prescribed drugs (mainly hormone replacement therapy).

The menopause does not mark the end of your love life and this stage in life does not necessarily lead to a loss of desire. Some women appear more liberated, not only from the worry of getting pregnant but also from their role of mother, as the children have left home. With more time at their disposal for their relationship, some women will find their sex drive comes alive again.

So stop your desire for sex sinking because of vaginal dryness and discuss it with your doctor and your partner.

* Survey of 1009 women aged over 18, undertaken by the ‘Institut Louis Harris’ in January 2003

Posted 20.07.2010


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