As a woman transitions through perimenopause and into full menopause, she may experience vaginal itching because of the drop in the hormone estrogen, which previously kept her vagina lubricated. In addition, the vaginal walls start to thin and this, too, can contribute to vaginal discomfort.
A woman’s body depends on estrogen and progesterone, two female hormones, to provide lubrication for and to the vagina. A healthy vagina is moist and becomes even moister when sexually aroused. Every woman has vaginal discharge, although too much may indicate that there is an infection or some kind of problem. The typical vaginal discharge is a clear or whitish substance that generally doesn’t have an odor and which has a slippery consistency to it. When estrogen and progesterone plummet during perimenopause and menopause, the vagina will become dry. There won't be as much lubrication or vaginal discharge.
Be conscientious of your diet and what you are drinking. Marcy Holmes, NP, Certified Menopause Clinician, advises that estrogen is produced from cholesterol. Consequently, menopausal women need to consume fats but only those that are beneficial to us and not those that are going to result in heart disease. She also notes that drinking too much alcohol or caffeine-containing products is going to dehydrate a woman’s body even more. Alcohol and caffeine products have a water-pill or diuretic effect, which may be beneficial if you are retaining water but not so helpful if you are dehydrated to begin with. This will further exacerbate the dryness and itching of your vagina.
Consider incorporating soy isoflavones into your diet to help prevent vaginal dryness and itching. Soy and flaxseed contain high levels of phytonutrients that help prevent vaginal dryness, which leads to itching.
Think about using natural lubricants such as Sylk or the paraben- and glycerin-free Astroglide. You can try dabbing grape seed oil or sweet almond oil on your vaginal area to help stop the itching and increase lubrication.
If you are taking medicine for colds or allergies or an anti-depressant, these can dry out the vaginal mucous membranes. The birth control pill can do the same because the synthetic hormones that are in the pill are not natural to the woman’s body. Ask your doctor if there is a different medication that you can take that doesn’t promote vaginal itchiness and dryness.
Keep in mind that a stressed woman is not going to be easily sexually aroused and her vagina will not be appropriately lubricated for a number of reasons, including a drop in androgens, or the male hormone that women possess. Androgens help women keep their libido in gear. When the adrenal glands are taxed by stress, androgens plummet and you aren’t going to be receptive to sexual overtures. Your vagina will remain dry and itchy, and if you do have intercourse, it may hurt. Try to manage your stress. Exercise, get enough sleep and take time to indulge yourself on occasion.
There Are Risks
Rxlist.com explains that the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study reported increased risks of stroke, invasive breast cancer, deep vein thrombosis, myocardial infarction and pulmonary emboli in post-menopausal woman who used oral estrogens for a period of five years. Topical (vaginal) estrogen cream may carry the same risks as oral estrogens. You need to consider these risks before opting for estrogen cream as a solution to your vaginal itching and dryness problem.
Womentowomen.com points out that bio-identical estrogen suppositories or creams that are applied directly onto the vagina, rather than taken orally, are an option for vaginal itchiness and dryness. Only trace amounts of the estrogen enter the woman’s circulatory system so the risk is lower than if she were to take oral estrogens. Estriol is the weakest of the estrogen creams available, but Marcy Holmes reports that it does a good job of plumping up thinning tissues.