BROOKE ERTSAD, DPT, PT, CAPP, WCS
Brooke can be reached at email@example.com.
Well, this topic is a bit of a “slippery slope” – pun intended.
Let’s face it. Sex is not always pleasurable and at times can even be painful.
One common reason females experience painful intercourse is due to vaginal dryness. Lack of arousal, breastfeeding, hydration level, certain metabolic diseases such as diabetes are known contributors to vaginal dryness, but the tissue changes in relation to aging and menopause are most commonly discussed around Apex.
But ladies, the need for vaginal lubricants is NOT ONLY FOR THE MENOPAUSAL…
Vaginal lubrication is needed for pain free movement and penetration. Our bodies produce it naturally with adequate levels of water, estrogen and other female hormones, but in the case of conditions listed above, hormones can be suppressed or virtually non-existent in some cases. While natural is best, there are times that a girl just needs a little help moistening up…down there. In fact up to 65% of females have used a vaginal lubricant in the past month. 1 Admitting that you could use a little help is the first step but choosing the right one can be very confusing. What’s worse is that some lubricants can cause more harm to your body in the long run.
Look for a pH between 3.8-4.5.
This is the normal range for vaginal secretions. Most vaginal lubricants on the market are well above a pH of 4.5, leaving your vagina primed for bacterial vaginosis, an inflammatory condition in which overgrowth of naturally occurring vaginal bacteria occurs.
Osmolality Less Then 1200
Osmolality is a term used to describe the efficiency with which a substance withdraws water from tissues and cells. This mechanism is no doubt responsible for keeping the vaginal tissues “slippery” during intercourse but withdrawing water from tissues will lead to cells of the vaginal mucosa shrinking and breaking down. Damaged vaginal mucosa may become irritated, inflamed and is more likely to get infections, such as STD’s. Many of the commercially available lubricants found on store shelves have a much higher osmolality than this number deemed safest by the World Health Organization (WHO).2
Avoid Toxic Chemicals.
Chemicals found in some lubricants are harmful to the vaginal microbiome (naturally occurring bacteria in vagina). Chemicals to avoid include Chlorhexidine Gluconate, Parabens, fragrances or flavors & what I’ve termed the “cyclos-Cyclomethicone, Cyclopentisiloxane, cyclotetrasiloxane. These are known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents), vaginal mucosa irritators, fertility and endocrine disrupters, and are known to kill off healthy vaginal bacteria.
What are you needing from your lubricant? Lubricants can be water-based, silicone-based, or oil-based and there are safe options for each. Water-based lubricants are often safest but can dry quickly during intercourse. Silicone-based is better for those having severe pain with sex or when their needs are for longer-lasting sexual experiences but may break down silicone sex toys. Oil-based lubricants are often safe, but messy options; however, oils are known to break down condoms. Knowing what you want can make your sexual experience safe and more pleasurable.
Consider Hormone Testing.
If you are needing lubricants every time you consent to sexual experiences, you may consider a hormone panel from your primary care provider. Low estrogen levels are associated with thinning of the vaginal mucosa and dryness. Adding a topical estrogen cream may be indicated to help you make natural vaginal secretions during sex.
Hopefully by now we have convinced you to get a safe vaginal lubricant. What can you find in the store to meet these requirements? Good Clean Love, Replens, and Desert Harvest are some of our favorite brands. Remember that it may take a few tries to find one that works for you. If pain persists or rashes develop, you may need to switch to a different brand or product with a different base, osmolality, pH, or even get your hormones checked. It’s also important to not forget simplest forms of lubrication include improving your own vaginal secretions by hydrating, self-stimulation, regular sexual experiences, and by having sexual experiences only when aroused.
Now go ahead and start enjoying yourself the safe way!
- Herbenick D, Reece M, Schick V, Sanders SA and Fortenberry JD. (2014) Women’s use and perceptions of commercial lubricants: prevalence and characteristics in a nationally representative sample of American adults. Journal of Sexual Medicine. Vol. 11, No.3, pp: 642-652. March 2014.
- Dezzutti CS, Brown ER, Moncla B, Russo J, Cost M, Wang L, Uranker K, Kunjara Na Ayudhya RP, Pryke K, Pickett J, Leblanc MA and Rohan LC. (2012) Is wetter better? An evaluation of over-the-counter personal lubricants for safety and anti-HIV-1 activity. PLoS One.7(11):e48328. 2012. Available at: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0048328
BROOKE ERTSAD, DPT, PT, CAPP, WCS