Many changes in a woman’s life can lead to vaginal dryness—not just menopause. Every part of having a child can have an impact on your vaginal wellbeing. Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding can all leave your vagina feeling dry, itchy, and painful, but the vaginal changes are distinct and caused by different factors. To find relief, you have to look for the root cause.
Why Pregnancy Can Cause Vaginal Dryness
If your birth control contributed to your vaginal dryness before you were pregnant, you might have been hoping for a respite from the dryness during pregnancy. Unfortunately, some women have dryness during pregnancy, too. Vaginal dryness is often linked to changes in hormones, and during pregnancy, levels of estrogen and progesterone increase drastically. Since estrogen typically helps vaginal moisture it would be logical to assume that pregnancy is a time when you wouldn’t have to deal with vaginal dryness. However, the hormonal imbalance that pregnancy causes sometimes creates symptoms like a dry, uncomfortable vagina.
An excellent first step is to ensure you’re adequately hydrated throughout your pregnancy to ensure that dehydration isn’t causing or worsening the problem. Next, check with your doctor to make sure that nothing more significant is going on. Low progesterone is sometimes the culprit, but if this is the case, it’s vital to find treatment since it may be a risk factor during pregnancy.
Why Childbirth Can Cause Vaginal Dryness
Childbirth causes a significant number of changes to your vagina, and vaginal dryness is often one of them. Those who gave birth vaginally will certainly experience soreness and discomfort, and doctors usually advise refraining from sexual activity for a period of time. But when they’re ready to get back in the saddle again, many women find that they are painfully dry. A recent study showed that 43% of women reported vaginal dryness even six months after birth. Given the pervasiveness of this experience, it’s shocking that vaginal dryness is not a more widespread conversation.
Dryness after childbirth is often caused by the drop in estrogen production that occurs when your body is no longer pregnant. Another cause is postpartum thyroiditis, which happens when the thyroid glands are inflamed. This condition causes many symptoms, including vaginal dryness. By the time your menstrual periods return, the dryness may subside for both medical conditions.
Why Breastfeeding Can Cause Vaginal Dryness
Breastfeeding may cause vaginal dryness in two different ways. First, nursing causes estrogen levels to dip even further than they did as a result of pregnancy, which can result in a condition called lactational atrophic vaginitis and causes all-around vaginal irritation. The second way that breastfeeding can make your vagina feel dry is by making it harder to stay hydrated. Make sure you drink plenty of water since your body is expending extra liquid to nourish your baby.