Study identifies factors that contribute to vaginal dryness

It's a common problem that only gets worse during the menopause transition; yet, no one wants to talk about it, and even fewer women are doing anything to correct it. A new study identifies those factors that contribute to the taboo problem of vaginal dryness. Study results are published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

Many women experience vaginal dryness during menopause, which often manifests as burning, itching, or lack of lubrication during sexual activity, and they have a lot of company. Data from the Study of Women Across the Nation (SWAN) tracked more than 2,400 women over a 17-year-period showed that, at baseline, 19.4% of women (aged 42-53 y) reported vaginal dryness. By the time the women in the study were aged 57 to 69 years, 34% of them complained of symptoms.

More surprising, however, is the fact that more than 50% of women don't report vaginal dryness to their healthcare providers, and less than 4% of affected women are actively using any of the many proven therapies that include vaginal estrogen tablets, creams, and rings, according to "Factors associated with developing vaginal dryness symptoms in women transitioning through menopause: a longitudinal study," the Menopause article detailing the study results.

It's no secret that as a woman transitions through menopause and her estradiol levels drop, her body undergoes many changes. Among these changes is decreased vaginal blood flow, which leads to vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse. In addition to highlighting the problem of women not talking about symptoms or acting to help manage the problem, the new study demonstrates that the frequency of sexual activity has no effect on the degree of vaginal dryness or pain during intercourse. So, women who were having either more or less sex specifically because they thought it would cure their problem will have to look for more proven treatment options. Additionally, the study found that hormone therapy was much more effective at managing vaginal dryness in women who experienced natural menopause than in those who underwent a hysterectomy.

"Studies have confirmed that although more than half of women develop vaginal dryness as they become more postmenopausal, most do not report symptoms. Some will try lubricants as they begin to develop pain with sex," says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director. "However, if lubricants and vaginal moisturizers are not enough, there are highly effective vaginal therapies such as vaginal estrogen tablets, creams, the low-dose ring, and the new intravaginal dehydroandrosterone. It's shocking that less than 4% of women in the SWAN study were using these effective therapies by the end of the study period. For women, please report symptoms, and for healthcare providers, please offer safe, effective therapies."


  1. Rita Shaw Rita Shaw United States says:

    I find this article to be incorrect. I am a woman who started suffering with this issue severely  at 42, I brought it up along with other issues noted,  loss of sensation, perimenopause issues, and both of my Dr's both female, looked like I dropped a bomb? I've never seen anything as sad as female Dr's  being uncomfortable discussing these issues, one told me it's normal your body changes as you are, products for this over counter at drug store. The other red faced addressed dryness issue only , told me to buy
    Natural progesterone..end of subject!
    Having had sexual issues on antidepressants years earlier, and had a male dr. who not only listened, but understood I had a valid complaint, he tried several things to help me. And left me feeling good about myself and needs. These female drs did the opposite? Being female around my age I thought they would be more open and understanding? Never did I expect them to freeze the conversation on a issue that greatly effects the quality of ones life? But for them to sweep it under a rug, like women weren't  validated or entitled to have these questions or concerns, to just except and Not even question..all the crap your body throws your way with peri, and menopausal unacceptable to every woman in this world!
    So I think you should do a large survey asking woman with these issues if they tried to approach  thier Dr about these issues , and were the Dr's helpful and forth coming?? Plus the dr knows are age, they know whats coming more than most of us because of thier education. Shouldn't  they include the topic in routine visits? Opening the door to q & ad's so patients that are embarrassed to mention it..are let off the hook and asked?
    They have no problems asking very personal questions regarding,sex life, infections, discharge, etc..
    My point they are the providers do not blame the patients? Its the providers job to ask and answer questions whether  they are uncomfortable with it or not.
    Could it be because in sexual helth areas its all open topic and help for men? But what do they tell women? Their choices are limited?
    Well that's changing everyday with biodentical hormones, and new devices being developed all the time.
    Dr's need a peril menopause and menopausal  education class, to learn all the new developments to handle women's issues, but mostly to be able to talk openly and comfortably with thier patients without looking tortured and uncomfortable themselves?
    How do we expect to solve these issues? When female professionals are hiding thier issues also?.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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