Most seniors continue to want and enjoy an active sex life with their spouse or significant other. Maintaining an active sex life can sometimes be a challenge — not because of a lack of desire, but because of changes associated with aging. For older women, vaginal dryness can play a part in decreasing desire for sex. But vaginal dryness doesn’t mean you have to give up enjoying a healthy sex life.
Causes of Vaginal Dryness
During a woman’s childbearing years, estrogen helps keep vaginal tissue healthy by secreting vaginal lubrication. This moist environment helps maintain the elasticity of the tissue, the proper pH, and protects the tissues against damage and infection.
Sexual arousal also increases vaginal lubrication, which provides a welcoming environment for masturbation, foreplay, and intercourse.
After menopause, also known as post-menopause, hormone levels drop, decreasing the natural production of lubrication. At this point, women who experience vaginal dryness report a variety of uncomfortable symptoms that can affect the pleasure from and desire for sexual relations, including
- an increase in vaginal infections
- discomfort while urinating
- drier, thinner, and less elastic vaginal tissue more prone to tearing and bleeding
Fortunately, women have a variety of effective treatment options available. The one that’s best for you is the one that works.
Treating Vaginal Dryness Without Hormones
Many women prefer to start with options for treating vaginal dryness that don’t rely on introducing hormones to their body. Here are a few to consider:
- Enjoy yourself! Regular sexual stimulation, whether you’re pleasuring yourself or with a partner, promotes lubrication and blood flow to the area, which can improve vaginal health. Sex toys, like a vibrator, can make stimulating yourself easier and you can purchase them discreetly online.
- Talk to your partner. Vaginal dryness during sex may also be a result of not being fully aroused. Communicate with your partner about how he or she can better meet your needs during foreplay. Don’t underestimate the power of your environment and give mood-setting music or scented candles a try.
- Water-Soluble Lubricants. Over the counter lubricants can significantly reduce the discomfort of friction during sex and masturbation. Menopause.org recommends water-soluble products, including the popular brands Astroglide, K-Y and Slippery Stuff. You can apply them directly to your vaginal, on your partner’s intimate areas, or on some sex toys.
- Vaginal moisturizers. Vaginal moisturizers are moisturizing, just like when you put cream on your dry feet before bed. In contrast to lubricants specially formulated to use in the moment, use moisturizers regularly as per the label’s and your health care provider’s instructions. Well-known products include Replens and K-Y Liquibeads.
- Try “Outercourse.” Although you may previously have gotten most of your sexual pleasure from intercourse, as you age you might find “outercourse” can be just as pleasurable. To enjoy sexual pleasure together, try oral sex or mutual masturbation. You could also spend intimate time caressing and massaging each other, watching adult films, acting out fantasies or anything else that sounds like fun to your and your partner.
Treating Vaginal Dryness With Hormones
Other options for treating vaginal dryness include hormonal treatments, which can have other added benefits for women who are post-menopausal. Some of these options include:
- Low-dose estrogen. This kind of low-dose estrogen isn’t taken orally but requires a prescription. You simply apply it directly on your vagina to increase the tissue’s thickness and elasticity, restore healthy acidity and relieve vaginal dryness by increasing natural secretions. Don’t expect instant results. You should see an improvement within the first few weeks and complete relief from symptoms may take several months.
- Vaginal rings. The ring is placed in the upper part of the vagina, releases a constant dose of estrogen, and lasts for about 3 months — at which point you can decide if you want another one or not.
- Osphena (Ospemifene). Ospemifene is a tablet that works similarly to estrogen but is not estrogen. Women take this tablet to alleviate the pain of penetration.
Keep in mind, just because you’re a senior, doesn’t mean you can attribute all vaginal symptoms to menopause. Consult your healthcare provider if your problems don’t improve with treatment.