A lot of us know about personal lubricants, but do we really know why we use them? Who can benefit from using lubricants? Today I want to cover the benefits of using vaginal lubricants or moisturizers and in which scenarios we may use these products.
Throughout a female’s reproductive years, our body goes through many hormonal shifts or events. Starting our period is one of them, followed by pregnancy/postpartum phase, and then eventually menopause. Our natural vaginal lubrication changes depending on what phase of our menstrual cycle we are in, what age we are, how sexually aroused we are, and the influence of hormones on our body. The vagina normally is a very acidic environment (3.8-4.5 pH) and changes in that pH can disrupt natural lubrication or even cause infections such as yeast.
Vaginal moisturizers are meant to be absorbed into the vulvar tissue and changes the water content of the cells. This makes the tissue more elastic, thicker and better able to produce fluid. Moisturizers hydrate dry and irritated tissue. Lubricants, on the other hand, don’t alter vaginal tissues, they are meant to create a barrier in the vagina to decrease friction during intercourse. Lubricants should be used only during vaginal penetration.
Scenario #1: Perimenopause/Menopause
Menopause marks the end of our period. Typically this is diagnosed when you’ve gone 12 months without a period. Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause and can last anywhere between 2-10 years and we typically see a fluctuation in hormones causing changes in periods, weight changes and mood swings. During menopause, our ovaries are no longer producing estrogen and progesterone. Overtime, this affects our vaginal tissue causing dryness and atrophy leading to pain and irritation. Aside from using vaginal estrogen, we recommend many of our patients to use a vaginal moisturizer to address daily irritation and a lubricant during sex.
Scenario #2: New mothers
After delivering a baby, your body is going through a lot of hormonal shifts. Without the placenta, you no longer are producing high levels of estrogen and progesterone. This allows the hormone prolactin to be released. If we choose to breastfeed, production of prolactin continues which suppresses ovulation therefore blocking estrogen. This drop in estrogen affects our vaginal tissue and causes sensation of rawness/dryness and irritation. This also leads to decreased libido as well. Resuming sex can seem unattainable (especially when one is sleep-deprived on top of everything), so a vaginal lubricant can help that transition back to sex more comfortable while your body takes it’s time to regulate hormones.
Scenario #3: Post-surgical/cancer treatment
Gynecological surgeries such as a hysterectomy can result in changes in estrogen and in some cases, send women into early menopause if performed prior to the natural transition into menopause. The same scenario occurs where the vaginal tissue atrophies and becomes dry, irritated and painful. Chemotherapy and radiation can also cause tissue changes resulting in dryness thinning. A daily moisturizer is important and lubrication is necessary during sex.
Scenario #4: Other pelvic conditions including pain/vaginal dryness concerns
Other reasons for needing vaginal lubrication or a moisturizer include hormonal changes that occur while taking birth control or certain diagnoses contributing to pelvic pain that affect our vulva such as vulvodynia. Taking certain birth control pills can also alter the amount of estrogen present at the vaginal tissue, leaving women with tissue irritation during sex or daily dryness. Pelvic pain conditions such as vulvodynia cause severe sensitivity and pain in the vaginal canal and vulva. You want to be careful about which specific moisturizer/lubricant you use if you have these conditions to not affect the pH balance which can worsen pain. It’s usually a good idea to partner with a physician that specializes in treating vulvar pain conditions to further treat this condition medically.
Vaginal moisturizers that we recommend to our patients:
- Coconut oil
- V Magic
- Good Clean Love moisturizer gel
- SweetSpot Labs moisturizing vulva serum
Vaginal lubricants we recommend:
- Slippery Stuff (water-based)
- Good Clean Love (water-based)
- Aloe Cadabra (water-based)
- Uberlube (silicone-based, latex condom safe)
- Foria Wellness (intimacy oil, CBD-infused)