"Dear Jacqui," the message begins. "I have a very dry vagina, and I had sex. Now I am really itching. And it hurts when my husband penetrates."
Or, “Every time my boyfriend and I have sex, my vagina ends up really sore. It hurts to go to the bathroom I am so raw. What’s wrong?”
Soreness after sex is common and can absolutely be avoided. So why does my vagina hurt? There are several principal reasons that cause it:
• Lack of lubrication is the major problem for vaginal irritation, redness and soreness. The reasons for vaginal dryness are different for younger and more mature women. In mature women lack of lubrication is due to low estrogen levels. As women reach menopause and beyond, the estrogen hormones are diminished. Estrogen levels largely control moisture in a woman’s body--in her hair, skin, and vaginal environment. Accordingly, when estrogen levels are low, little or no moisture is available during sexual activity. The delicate vaginal tissue becomes severely irritated, causing discomfort or pain during sex and after. An intimate moisturizer eliminates dryness instantly and makes the sexual experience completely pleasurable.
• In younger, pre-menopausal women the body is storing and releasing moisture to facilitate procreation. It didn’t plan for sexual recreation. The body’s moisture reserve is stored in the “Bartholin” gland and vaginal tissue. It is released at the start of intimacy and protects the delicate vaginal tissue during sex. As intimate activity continues and the moisture is used up, irritation and soreness often occur. That’s why the use of a safe moisture product is indicated for younger women as well.
• Medical reasons, such as eating disorders, can cause debilitating hormonal changes resulting in vaginal dryness. These same symptoms can occur to women athletes or women who exercise excessively.
• Lack of vaginal lubrication, no matter what the reason, will result in soreness, swollen tissue, itching and or pain during and after sex because the delicate vaginal tissue is affected when not enough moisture is present to protect it. The resulting discomfort can last for hours, even days.
• Some women are allergic to protection products like condoms or spermicides. If you and your partner use such items and experience soreness or itching, it may be an allergic reaction causing it. Try switching brands or use a different method of protection.
• Women can be allergic to the presence of semen in the vagina. That is why it is very important to void soon after having sex. Wash with plenty of lukewarm water and do not use regular soaps or cleansers. Specifically avoid scented washes, bubble baths or douches, any vaginal products with flavors or additives that can alter the healthy vaginal pH.
• Protect your health when using a vaginal lubricant/moisturizer. For your safety use an U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved product. Many common lubricants are not FDA-approved, which means not safe for use inside the most sensitive part of your body. For daily intimate cleansing use pH balanced products only. Avoid products with chemical fragrances, coloring or additives, douches or bubble baths, especially after sexual activity.
• Finally, sexual discomfort is often due to insufficient stimulation. Men usually are ready for penetration within two minutes of foreplay. Women need 15 to20 minutes to be fully ready for intercourse. Sexual activity need never cause discomfort. It is about giving each other pleasure.
Edited by Alison Stanton