Pain and discomfort during sex is something we don’t often talk about. We don’t talk about it when it follows childbirth – we are distracted by the baby and the feeding schedule and “are you getting enough sleep?”
We don’t talk about it during menopause. We hear phrases like “hot flush” and “hormones going crazy” but we don’t talk about sex. If it’s painful or still enjoyable. If it’s even possible.
We need to change this. We need to talk about sex and vaginal discomfort and lubrication. Because pain during sex is an everyday occurrence for so many women, of different ages and stages in life. Commonly, it’s caused by vaginal dryness as a result of normal hormonal changes.
“If you’re experiencing pain with sex or self-pleasuring; a burning, itching sensation; painful vulvae, or frequent urinary tract infections; these are all common symptoms of vaginal dryness,” sexual health nurse and midwife Kate Allardice told Mamamia.
“Vaginal dryness is usually caused by a drop in the hormone estrogen. This often occurs during menopause, or after childbirth and during breastfeeding. We need estrogen for moisture, so a lot of women may find that their return to sex is dry and uncomfortable after they’ve had their babies.”
While breastfeeding and menopause can be common factors leading to vaginal dryness, there are certain other conditions, and treatments, that might result in symptoms of dryness and discomfort.
"Breastfeeding and menopause can be common factors leading to vaginal dryness." Image: iStock.
“Chemotherapy or pelvic radiation for breast or ovarian cancers; aromatase inhibitors that women often take following breast cancer treatment; autoimmune conditions like Sjogren’s Syndrome; some anti-depressants and anti-histamines; these have also been linked to vaginal dryness,” Allardice said.
“Lifestyle factors like smoking and excessive alcohol, as well as lack of sexual activity, can also contribute.”
No matter what the cause, vaginal dryness can take its toll both physically and emotionally. It usually arises after big life changes – having a baby, cancer treatment, menopause – and experiencing a reduction in sexual pleasure alongside these changes can be emotionally exhausting.
“Anything that you can do to help to reclaim yourself and your femininity in this situation is beneficial,” Allardice said.
Starting the conversation is the first step in making a change and finding a solution. It’s important we talk about vaginal discomfort and pain during sex with girlfriends, our partners, our doctors. Because women experiencing vaginal dryness can take control. There are ways to fix the problem, and change is possible.
There are several products that can help reduce vaginal dryness. There are moisturisers that can be applied two to three times a week to help rejuvenate the area. There are estrogen therapies. Medications. Pessaries.
They can all work in conjunction to help return moisture to the area and reduce pain during intercourse.
"Therapies like this you would do in consultation with healthcare providers. For women in menopause, hormone replacement therapy might be worth considering as well,” Allardice said.
It’s important you talk about vaginal discomfort with your doctor. Image: iStock.
But there is one immediately effective, go-to solution for vaginal dryness for women of all ages.
Lubricants are the most reliable solution for providing hydration and increasing pleasure during intercourse.
Silicone and water-based lubricants from German company pjur are dermatologically tested and specifically designed for women with vaginal dryness.
They are quality products and moisturise the genital tissues to reduce friction during sex. These, Allardice suggests, should be your first port-of-call and your mainstay after having your baby, during menopause or at any time when you need symptomatic relief for vaginal dryness.
“pjur is an ethical company that is invested in women’s health. It is committed to investigating and developing products that assist in supporting and improving sexual health in both women and men,” Allardice said.
“pjur med lubricants have an immediate action and you can use them as part of your foreplay,” Allardice continued.
“The silicone-based lubricants are long-lasting, and only one application is typically required. Some women love the smooth silkiness of the silicone-based lubricant, but others prefer the water-based option. It’s really a personal choice.”
The pjur med products are hormone free, don't contain spermicidal substances and are suitable for all skin types.
pjur med supports sexual health in both women and men. Image: iStock.
“During a study into sexuality after breast cancer at the Royal Women’s Hospital, we were testing the effectiveness of pjur silicone-based lubricants, as well as others on the market,” Allardice said.
“I recall one patient’s case very clearly. She had married late and was very traditional; she hadn’t been sexually active before marrying. Not long into her marriage, this woman discovered she had breast cancer. She went through treatment, and completed the course of post-treatment medication. Now, she had vaginal dryness.
"She had a very loving and compassionate husband and they used pjur med to try and increase hydration during sex. Together, using pjur med lubricants, they rediscovered their sex life. ‘It’s changed my whole life,’ this patient told me.”
pjur med lubricants are available online. For anyone experiencing vaginal dryness, starting the conversation and trying pjur med lubricants should be your first steps in taking control, “reclaiming your femininity” and reigniting your sex life. Vaginal dryness does not have to be an “inevitable” by-product of ageing or childbirth. Change is possible.
What has been your experience with vaginal dryness?
pjur group manufactures and markets high end luxury health and body care products in more than 50 countries on all five continents.
The pjur med series signifies advanced premium personal lubricants with natural and nature-identical ingredients for the health conscious consumer. pjur med glides are recommended worldwide to relieve vaginal dryness.
From the sale of every bottle, pjur donates $0.25 to the McGrath Foundation, which raises money to place McGrath Breast Care Nurses in communities right across Australia and to increase breast awareness in young people.