First, you’re not alone. At least 30 to 40 percent of peri- and postmenopausal women experience uncomfortable vaginal symptoms. Unfortunately, research shows that far fewer of those women actually seek help—so good for you for trying to figure out what’s up!
Here’s the thing: As we reach and move through menopause, our decreasing estrogen levels can cause the tissues of the vulva and the inner lining of the vagina to become thinner, drier, less elastic, and more susceptible to irritants. As a result, we may experience itchiness, pain, soreness or redness. So you’re not going crazy—your vagina is more sensitive now. However, how often or how you wash isn’t so much the issue (though you should never aggressively scrub) as the kind of cleanser you’re using. If your regular brand contains perfumes or dyes—which most of us should avoid since they can disrupt healthy vaginal flora—you may find it irritating. And even if you use fragrance- and dye-free products and wash gently, itchy skin can occur simply as a result of the natural thinning of the tissues. You can help relieve some discomfort with home remedies like cold compresses, fragrance-free vaginal moisturizers (look for ones that contain emollient-rich coconut or olive oils), and vitamin E oil, but if the itchiness persists, see your health care provider, who may prescribe an estrogen cream, ring or tablet, and can also rule out other potential itch-inducing conditions like lichen sclerosus.
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