Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Slip Slidin' Away from Vaginal Dryness

If you are experiencing pain with intercourse, one of the quickest and easiest fixes to try is lubrication. Many women experience vaginal dryness and though the most common cause of this is menopause, it can also occur for many other reasons. I have had patients in the past who were young women and it had never occurred to them to use a lubricant because they felt that since they were young, they shouldn’t need it. Vaginal dryness can occur at any age and aside from menopause is also linked to hormonal birth control, douching, infection, and stress. Unfortunately, lots of women never find out the cause for their vaginal dryness because they are too embarrassed to bring up the subject with their doctor.

If you are experiencing vaginal dryness, I encourage you to speak up because this issue can negatively interfere with your sexual enjoyment. It can make sex painful and down the road can lead to problems in your relationship. If the pain and dryness continue untreated for a long period of time, you may begin to flinch at the very idea of sex and this can lead to pelvic floor muscle tension and spasm that, even if the vaginal dryness is resolved, can further contribute to pain with intercourse. Talking to your physician about dryness is important, as they can determine the cause of the dryness and help stop this issue in its tracks.

 Speaking to your doctor is important, but as I mentioned before, one of the quickest and easiest things to try first is adding lubrication to your sex life. Knowing which lubricant to choose can be a daunting task but, not to worry, I am here to help you figure out which lubrication is best for you!

There are three main types of lubrication: oil-based, silicone-based, and water-based.

Oil-based Lubricants  
Oil-based lubricants are long lasting lubricants, however, the oil can leave a coating on the rectum or vagina that can increase the risk of bacterial infections. For this reason, oil-based lubricants should be used ONLY with self-stimulation (a.k.a. masturbation). Additionally, oil-based lubricants should NOT be used with condoms because they will disintegrate the latex and cause the condom to  be ineffective. Examples of oil-based lubricants include baby oil, petroleum jelly, mineral oil, and vegetable oil.

BOTTOM LINE: If you are engaging in self-stimulation without the use of condoms, and want a product that is longer lasting, use an oil-based lubricant.

Silicone-based Lubricants
Silicone-based lubricants last longer than other lubricants, like water-based, and are typically a little bit thicker than water-based lubricants. In addition, some silicone-based lubricants can be used for sex in water. However, they can also be more difficult to rinse off and some women report having vaginal irritation if they do not shower and remove the product immediately after having intercourse. Silicone-based lubricants can be used with latex products, such as condoms, but should not be used with silicone-based sex toys because they can bond with the toy, cause discomfort, and cause the toy to lose its shape. Silicone-based lubricants are also typically more expensive and not as easy to find in your local drugstore. Examples of silicone-based lubricants include Wet Platinum, Eros, Astroglide X, and ID Millennium.

BOTTOM LINE: Silicone-based lubricants can last longer than water-based lubricants, but can cause discomfort in some individuals and should not be used with silicone-based sex toys.

Water-based Lubricants
Water-based lubricants can either be glycerin free or contain glycerin. Glycerin is a colorless, odorless, solution that is used to retain moisture and has a slightly sweet taste. Water-based lubricants are the safest type of lubricant to use for both intercourse and for self-stimulation because they rinse off easily in water and will not react with latex, which is something other types of lubricants can do. Also, if you are prone to getting yeast infections, you should steer clear of water-based lubricants containing glycerin, as glycerin creates a friendly environment for the growth of yeast. Examples of water-based lubricants that DO contain glycerin include KY Jelly, Sylk, Astroglide, Probe, and Aqualube. Examples of water-based lubricants that DO NOT contain glycerin include Slippery Stuff and Liquid.

BOTTOM LINE: Water-based, glycerin free lubricants, such as Slippery Stuff or Liquid, are the safest lubricants to use.

In conclusion, if you are having pain with intercourse try adding lubrication to your routine. It is an inexpensive and easy way to improve your comfort and enjoyment with intercourse.

A special thanks to Stacy Sutton, Student Physical Therapist who contributed to this blog post!

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