Vaginal Dryness and Pregnancy
Pregnancy can change your body in many unexpected ways. If you are pregnant, you may already be well acquainted with extreme tiredness, morning sickness, fatigue, body pain, swellings in several parts of your body, changes in your taste and smell as well as many other changes. Not immune to all these changes is your vagina and one change, in particular, that you may not be aware of or that no one would have warned you about is vaginal dryness.
Vaginal changes like decreased moisture can be annoying at best, resulting in dry, itchy skin in the vaginal area and pain and discomfort during intercourse. While some expecting mothers face excess vaginal discharge, many others will have an extremely low supply of it, leading to vaginal dryness and discomfort.
Vaginal dryness is deeply uncomfortable, as it can quickly lead to itching, make sexual intercourse painful, and creates an environment favourable to infections in the genital area such as yeast or bacterial vaginosis, or even urinary tract infections. It is for this reason, that it is important to keep this symptom in check, as potential infections during pregnancy are harder to treat and could (albeit rarely) lead to complications during labor.
Should You Be Concerned About Vaginal Dryness during Pregnancy?
Although a dry vagina may sound like a minor inconvenience, it can cause a lot of discomfort and pain. Vaginal dryness could be caused by an allergy, cold medication, antidepressants, autoimmune disorders, urinary tract infections, or anti-oestrogen medication.
It is important to rule out the chances of vaginal infection, which can bring about many complications during pregnancy. Your gynecologist will also be able to recommend the most appropriate treatment for you if any is required.
What Causes Dryness During Pregnancy?
The vaginal epithelium - the mucous membranes located in the uterus and vaginal canal, is responsible for the secretion of mucus into the vagina and keeping it moist. The vaginal epithelium, however, depends on estrogen levels to maintain and continuously lubricate themselves. During pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone levels rise sharply especially during the first and third trimesters. The oestrogen imbalance reduces mucus production in the vaginal epithelium and the cervix, resulting in a dry, itchy vagina.
There are other factors that could worsen vaginal dryness during pregnancy or make it more likely, such as using underwear made of synthetic materials, not hydrating properly, or being prone to vaginal dryness before pregnancy.
How to Treat Vaginal Dryness During Pregnancy
If you are experiencing vaginal dryness while you are pregnant, you should inform your doctor about it, as it is important to rule out other possible, more serious causes of the dryness. Your doctor will also be able to recommend an appropriate treatment for you. Having said this, there are a few simple remedies that can be taken at home to reduce the impact or prevent the dryness from occurring. Some of the remedies include the following:
Staying hydrated: Drinking six to eight glasses of water a day will help keep all your tissues lubricated, including those below the belt. Mucus is 90% water, so it will help the vagina stay lubricated.
Lubricants: Short-acting water-based lubricants can be used to overcome the problem during sex. Many women turn to personal lubricants to help to reduce the pain that happens during sex. The problem is that lubricants don’t provide a long-term solution, and vaginal dryness doesn’t magically disappear when you’re not having sex. The reality is that burning, swelling, and itching can bother you all day long. So, while lubricants may be adequate for the immediate sexual encounter, in all likelihood, you won’t feel like yourself until you find a solution that helps relieve your chronic dryness.
Moisturizers: For many women, vaginal dryness is a problem all the time, not just during sex and many can achieve instant relief simply by using a vaginal moisturizer. Moisturisers are designed for regular use to hydrate the vaginal tissues and can be used every day or two to three times a week. They have the major advantage, over lubricants, of providing long-lasting hydration and relief of dryness and not just during sex.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant with proven benefits in preventing aging of vaginal tissue and reducing inflammation. You can apply Vitamin E oil or purchase a good quality vaginal moisturizer that already contains it as an ingredient.
Hygiene: You should maintain hygiene in the vaginal area by washing with mild soap, and then dry it completely with a towel because dryness in the vagina increases the risk of infection. Avoid using perfumed soaps, bubble baths, douches, and scented lotions to clean the vaginal area as this may further irritate your vaginal area.
Undergarments: Wear loose, soft, and absorbent cotton underwear. Avoid synthetic fabrics and tight-fitting underwear. This will worsen the condition, increase itching, and make the area sore. It is preferable to use the undergarments made of cotton.
Pelvic exercise: Pelvic exercises (also known as Kegels) can be very effective in promoting increased blood flow to the vagina, and they don't pose any risk to the pregnancy.
Moisturisers vs lubricants. What is the Difference?
Moisturisers are designed for regular use to hydrate the vaginal tissues and can be used every day or two to three times a week. Lubricants are short acting for use during sex to provide wetness when the normal arousal process doesn’t work so well. In a nutshell, using a natural moisturizer can help with the pain associated with dryness. Using natural lubricants help with pain during intimacy.
Tips to Avoid and Treat These Clinical Problems :
Stay hydrated: Drinking six to eight glasses of water a day will help keep your tissues lubricated, including those below the belt.
Lubricants: Short-acting lubricants can be used to overcome the problem during sex. Many women turn to personal lubricants to help to reduce the pain that happens during sex. However, lubricants don’t provide a long-term solution, and vaginal dryness doesn’t magically disappear when you’re not having sex. The burning, swelling, and itching can bother you all day long. So, while lubricants may be adequate for the immediate sexual encounter, in all likelihood, you won’t feel like yourself until you find a solution that helps relieve your chronic dryness.
Moisturizers: Many women achieve instant relief simply by using a vaginal moisturizer. Moisturisers are designed for regular use to hydrate the vaginal tissues and can be used every day or two to three times a week. They have the advantage, over lubricants, of providing long-lasting hydration and relief of dryness and not just during sex.
Stopping Birth Control. Stopping oral contraceptives altogether will usually solve the lubrication problem, but may leave you vulnerable to pregnancy, so other contraception options can be explored.
Changing Birth Control: Changing oral contraceptives to a lower dose progestin formulation, with a shorter half life can be tried. These lower dose formulations still provide contraception but are less consistent in their suppression of ovarian function.
Estrogen supplements: If there is evidence to suggest a woman has low estrogen levels (very light, scant periods), additional estrogen can be given, in the general dosage range of post menopausal HRT (such as Premarin 0.625 or 0.3 mg daily, or topical vaginal estrogen). While adding additional estrogen can be effective, long-term use may pose added cardiovascular risks such as is seen in the medium-dose or high-dose oral contraceptives.
A final word…
Although you hardly hear about it, vaginal dryness is not uncommon during pregnancy and many women will experience it during the first and third trimester.
No two women are the same, so the advice in this article is meant as a broad overview of some of the things you can do to address vaginal dryness and discomfort during your pregnancy. The most important thing is to never suffer in silence. Do not be afraid to talk to your physician about this condition if you’re experiencing discomfort.
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