Vaginal Dryness and Infection

Diseases and medications can cause a variety of vaginal problems that lead to vaginal dryness, narrowing, ulcers, and infection. Vaginal infections occur when there is a change in the normal vaginal acidity that keeps good and bad organisms balanced.

Discuss your medications and their sexual side-effects with your health-care team and contact them right away if you have symptoms. If you notice a discharge, or vaginal itchiness, see your doctor. Your partner may also need treatment. Ask whether your partner should wear a condom while you are being treated.

Vaginal Lubrication

Hormonal changes in a woman’s body (including breast-feeding and menopause) can result in decreased vaginal lubrication and lubrication from the vagina not finding its way to the external parts of the vulva. This dryness can cause irritation and chafing. Medications such as antihistamines, hormonal birth control, ADHD medications, depression medications and chemotherapy can also cause this. Studies show that survivors of sexual assault/trauma produce less lubrication.

Several non-hormonal creams and gels are available over the counter and can be applied prior to intercourse. The application of lubrication can result in more comfort as well as greater sexual satisfaction.

Discuss any concerns with your health care team. Plan ahead by having vaginal lubricants available to help with lubrication during intercourse. Discuss what is happening with your partner and include them in the process.

Petroleum Based

Most Commonly Used!

Types: Mineral oil, Vaseline, Stroke 29, Jack Off

Negatives: Irritates vulvas, destroys latex condoms, stains fabric.

Positives: Cheap, and easily accessible.

Natural Oil Based

The rule of thumb is, generally, if you can eat it, it’s safe to go inside the vagina. The body can clear out natural oils more easily than petroleum-based lubricants.

Types: Vegetable, corn, avocado, peanut and olive oils and butter.

Negatives: Destroys latex condoms, stains fabric, can easily be confused with petroleum-based lubricants.

Positives: Great for vulva massage, safe for the vagina, safe to eat, good for all forms of sexual play, cheap and easily accessible.

Water Based with Glycerine

Glycerine is added to most water-based lubricants and produces a slightly sweet taste. The most commonly sold lubricants contain synthetic glycerine. These are the most readily available lubricants in chemists and supermarkets that are safe for use with condoms. Most flavoured and/or warming lubricants contain glycerine.

Types: Astroglide, KY Liquid/Jelly, Embrace, Frixxion, Wet, Good Head, Wet Flavors, ID, and Replens (suppositories for dry vaginas)

Negatives: Dries out quickly, often sticky or tacky, creates an open invitation for yeast infections.

Positives: Does not stain fabric, safe to use with latex condoms.

Water Based without Glycerine

If recurrent yeast infections or extremely sensitive genitals are a problem, I recommend this type of lubricant.

Types: Maximus, Liquid Silk, Slippery Stuff, Oh My, Sensual Organics, Probe

Negatives: Can have a bitter taste due to the absence of glycerine.

Positives: Lasts longer than lubricants with glycerine, reduces irritation to the genitals, does not stain fabric, is safe with latex condoms, is usually thicker and provides a cushion.

Silicone Based

Silicone lasts the longest out of all lubricants and is safe to use with condoms. Unlike the silicone in breast implants silicone lubrication cannot leak into the bloodstream. Most silicone lubricants are also hypo-allergenic.

Types: Eros, Wet Platinum, ID Millennium, Pink, Gun Oil

Negatives: Expensive, cannot use with silicone or cyberskin sex dilators, must be washed off with soap and water if too much is used.

Positives: A little goes a long way, great for sensitive genitals, feels like petroleum-based lubricant but is safe for condoms, clings to internal walls, stays on underwater, is odourless and tasteless, lasts three times longer than water-based lubricants, hypo-allergenic.

Lubricants containing LIDOCAINE or BENZOCAINE numb the tissue and may help in managing surface pain and dryness, but please be cautious in using these products. The ingredients dull the body’s natural defence mechanism (pain), which would tell you when something is possibly tearing in your body. If you numb yourself with a lidocaine or benzocaine type lubricant you may increase your risk of injury and infection.

Written by Prof Elna McIntosh

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