The vaginal walls may weaken as a woman ages due to changes in her hormone levels. Fewer cells that secrete moisture result from thinner walls. This may cause dryness in the vagina. Dr Vaishali Sakpal, a gynaecologist and doctor from Mumbai, simplifies women’s health as she explores the topic further in a session with Gytree in collaboration with SheThePeople during an instructional workshop on vaginal dryness.
Vaginal dryness can make people uncomfortable. The problem is prevalent and affects many women, yet this may inhibit women from addressing symptoms with their doctor or partner, Dr Sakpal opines.
Sakpal asserts that while vaginal dryness may not be immediately life-threatening, it may negatively affect our way of life and cause uncomfortable sex since it reduces the vagina’s natural lubrication. “For elder women, it affects the other tissues and may lead to UTIs and urosepsis,” she adds.
Declining oestrogen levels
With ageing, women start to produce less oestrogen. A period is known as perimenopause which results in the cessation of menstruation. “A healthy vagina produces natural lubrication,” says Dr Sakpal. Focusing solely on the effects of oestrogen, she further adds that the usual vaginal pH ranges between 3.8 and 5.0, which is somewhat acidic, whereas the naturally neutral pH is equivalent to 7. Vaginal fluids with a lower pH (more acidic) than blood or interstitial fluids can shield the vaginal mucosa from harmful organisms.
“Sexual arousal produces fluid in the vagina, causing natural lubrication,” she says, explaining that if there is a fall in the oestrogen levels, the reduced flow of blood will thin down the cell lining the vagina. As a result, the vaginal pH levels will be increasing and put an end to the acidic nature of the vagina. If the pH levels of the vagina are not acidic in nature, it will be more vulnerable to harmful bacteria causing vaginal dryness.
The workshop by Gytree.com highlighted:
- Sexual arousal produces fluid in the vagina, causing natural lubrication,
- The fall in vaginal oestrogen levels is seen at 50% amongst postmenopausal women and 63% amongst breast cancer survivors.
- Dehydration can also cause vaginal yeast infections.
The fall in vaginal oestrogen levels is seen at 50% amongst postmenopausal women and 63% amongst breast cancer survivors, Dr Sakpal says. “Chemotherapy opposes the action of oestrogen in our bodies,” she adds.
But not all medical conditions result in a reduction in oestrogen production, including menopause. During pregnancy, as a result of hormonal fluctuation, it is likely that our body requires extra water if the vagina feels dry in order to maintain it moist. During pregnancy, the volume of circulating fluid increases by about 50%, therefore it’s important to drink more water than usual to prevent vaginal dryness and other dehydration-related adverse effects. “Dehydration can also cause vaginal yeast infections,” Dr Sakpal adds.
Gytree is a growing community of women focussed on holistic health from the founders of SheThePeople. You can follow Gytree here.
Antihistamines are used in allergy treatments to stop the effects of histamine, which the body releases in response to allergens. They reduce mucus production, which lessens sneezing, runny noses, and watery, itchy eyes. However, they can also cause other mucus membranes, particularly those in our vagina, to dry up. “Insufficient arousal can be another cause,” she says.
“Itching, soreness and discomfort during sex and urinal incontinence – being unable to control urine are signs that you may have vaginal dryness,” says Dr Sakpal while elaborating as to how we can deduce that we do not have a healthy vagina. “Hormonal treatments including topical options and non-hormonal ones including vaginal lubricants and moisturisers can serve as remedies to the condition,” she adds.
Dr Sakpal also mentions vaginal rejuvenation therapy. A rapid, safe, non-invasive, and painless 10-minute procedure using CO2 laser technology and sophisticated laser equipment may solve these issues. It regenerates lost collagen and elastin by directing a pixelated CO2 laser beam at the damaged tissues. It increases lubrication, tone, and strength while enhancing the functionality of the entire vaginal, vulval, and peri-urethral area.
Similar to vaginal ultrasonography, this method involves inserting a single-use, sanitary probe into the vagina to deliver laser pulses. This is one of the most cost-effective, painless treatments for urine leaks. “However, this process is still in its infancy,” she says, adding, “No data and not many studies have been conducted on this.”
Suggested Reading: Vaginal Dryness During Sex. Why Does It Happen?
“I’m really happy that the informative workshop was conducted in English and Hindi and the doctor used simple terms so we could understand. The question and answer session also let us ask the doctor for advice and for clarification,” says Ritika Joshi, an attendee at the workshop.