Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team. Updated on December 18, 2020
What Causes Vaginal Dryness?
There are many reasons why you may be experiencing a vaginal dry spell. This may be due to an allergic reaction to a cosmetic product such as soap or perfume, your menstruation cycle, or even your birth control pill. Luckily, vaginal dryness is a condition that can be easily identified and treated if you know what is causing it.
While vaginal dryness is most commonly associated with menopausal women (45-55 years old), women of all ages can experience it. Its symptoms include discomfort, itchiness or burning, and pain during sex. Some women feel these symptoms daily, while others only notice when they’re unable to get “wet” (lubricated) before or during sex.
Vaginal Dryness & the Birth Control Pill
Between 3-5% of women on low-dose birth control pills encounter vaginal dryness.
Depending on the type of birth control pill you are on, some may be better than others. Pills with low levels of estrogen that ALSO contain drospirenone, desogestrel, or norgestimate seem to have a negative impact on libido and vaginal dryness. Testosterone contributes to lubrication in the vagina but birth control pills lower a woman’s testosterone levels produced by the ovaries, which leads to vaginal dryness.
Estrogen also helps keep your vaginal tissues lubricated, so when there is less of it, this means there is less blood flow to the tissue, resulting in dryness of either the vagina or vulva. Quick tip: use a silicone-based lubricant (like one from Female Founded, Female Led Pulse) or apply a hormonal cream (which can be prescribed by your doctor) to the opening of the vagina to reduce dryness.
Did You Know?
Research shows that 5% of women have a genetic variant that results in a defective or inefficient testosterone receptor. This means that some women require higher levels of testosterone to keep the vulva and vaginal tissue healthy and for their glands to function normally. The effects are not obvious until testosterone levels become lower than normal, which can also occur in women who take the pill.
There are a few potential issues for women with this genetic variant who take the birth control pill,
- The pill causes the ovaries to produce less total testosterone in a usable form.
- The synthetic progesterone in newer birth control pills blocks the testosterone receptor at high doses
- The testosterone receptor doesn’t work well, making it very dependent on high amounts of testosterone being present.
What Populations Are Most At-Risk?
- Menopause: Women going through menopause are more likely to experience dryness due to their decreased levels of estrogen, leading to the vaginal tissue becoming thinner, dryer, and less elastic.
- Pregnancy: Similarly, if you have just given birth, your estrogen levels will be lower while your progesterone levels will be higher; in the postpartum period, the pituitary gland releases prolactin, a hormone that alerts your body to produce milk, thereby suppressing the ovarian production of estrogen, according to Tami Rowen, M.D., an OB/GYN at UCSF Medical Center.
- Tampons: If you use tampons and experience dryness, you could consider switching to pads or a menstrual cup — or simply skip your period altogether! Tampons may reduce the amount of natural moisture in your vagina, though it should only last about 12-24 hours.
- Antihistamines: Antihistamines dry out the mucus membranes to relieve symptoms like congestion — great! But that means they also dry out your vagina — not so great.
- Sjögren’s syndrome: Vaginal dryness can also be caused by Sjögren’s syndrome, an immune system disorder that produces dry eyes and a dry mouth.
- Reaction to products. Exercise caution when trying out a new detergent, bath product, or certain fabrics, as these items could throw off your moisture balance.
Did You Know?
The vagina is self-cleaning, so no internal washing is necessary! In fact, douching can lead to a whole host of problems like bacterial and yeast infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer, increased transmission of STIs, upper genital tract infections, and endometritis.
Is There Treatment for Vaginal Dryness?
Unlike the pill, non-hormonal birth control methods such as the copper IUD or the mini-pill will most likely not lead to vaginal dryness, so you may want to try one of these options if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. Be sure to talk with your doctor to figure out which birth control method works best for you.
Other solutions include reducing your caffeine intake and eating more healthy fats such as avocado, hummus, and peanuts, as they can enhance vaginal lubrication. This means your body and vaginal tissue don’t get dehydrated. If you think your vaginal dryness is linked to sex, talk to your sexual partner about what is and isn’t working and consider spending more time on foreplay.
You can also look into vaginal moisturizers or lubricants and vaginal estrogen cream or tablets. If the issue is related to the birth control pill you are on, talk to a doctor about switching to a new birth control method.
Pandia Health always provides FREE delivery and automatic refills of your birth control — plus FREE goodies like hi-chews, chocolate, or tea! Ditch the dryness and the “pill anxiety” by signing up today!
How Can Pandia Health Help?
At Pandia Health, we take pride in prescribing birth control based on several factors, including age, ethnicity, BMI, and general health.
All these factors can influence your body’s reaction to birth control, including vaginal dryness, which your doctor will consider when reviewing the best options for you. With just one $20 payment a year, you can get access to our expert doctors (available in these states) for 364 days.
If you suspect your current prescription could be causing vaginal dryness, get in touch to change your birth control today!
Frequently Asked Questions about Vaginal Dryness
Can birth control pills cause dryness?
Some pills may be better than others. Pills with very-low levels of estrogen seem to have the most significant negative impact on vaginal dryness, so if you’re taking one of these, talk to your doctor about whether it’s contributing to your symptoms.
Can dehydration cause vaginal dryness?
If you’re dehydrated, your vagina can be affected. Although dehydration can disrupt the delicate balance of good yeast and bacteria levels in the vaginal microbiome, vaginal dryness isn’t necessarily related to how much water you consume daily.
What can I use for vaginal dryness?
Your doctor can prescribe medication, recommend over-the-counter products, or you can try home remedies that may help. Having regular sex or avoiding hygiene products with fragrances and dyes that can irritate or dry out the vaginal tissue may help.
What does vaginal dryness feel like?
Symptoms commonly associated with vaginal dryness include vaginal itching, burning, irritation, and pain during intercourse. Plus, these vaginal changes make it easier for infections to occur.
Can birth control cause itching and burning?
Birth control has not been shown to cause itching or burning.
Can birth control change your discharge?
Some people experience changes in vaginal discharge when taking the pill. This can include an increase or decrease in vaginal lubrication, an alteration in the nature of your vaginal discharge, or changes that affect sexual intercourse.
Can birth control make you itchy?
Birth control has not been shown to cause itchiness. However, for some women, it can change the vaginal pH balance and make them more prone to thrush, a common yeast infection, or bacterial vaginosis. Both can cause dryness, irritation, and itching.
Can you be allergic to birth control?
An allergic reaction to birth control is very rare but not impossible. Less than one in a thousand women experience an allergic reaction. Consult your doctor if you think you may be having an allergic reaction.
Can birth control give you a yeast infection?
Birth control does not cause yeast infections. Instead, it may change the environment of the vagina so that it is more likely to get one.
The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.