While we typically associate vaginal dryness with menopause and elderly women, it’s not uncommon for women to experience occasional vaginal dryness throughout the childbearing years. There may be any number of underlying causes if it’s more of a chronic issue though. Cervical fluid is a key factor in both comfort and enjoyment of intercourse as well as reproduction. Sometimes lubricants may be necessary to assist in both. That lubricant can make a difference in conception success and some are more supportive of fertility than others.
Causes of Vaginal Dryness
Low estrogen is a common cause of vaginal dryness. Estrogen levels fluctuate naturally and normally through the menstrual cycle. For example, just after menstruation, estrogen is low and the cervical fluid is thick and acidic. After ovulation, the fluid may be sticky or pasty. Neither of these fluids are typically supportive of sperm survival.
Dehydration can be a factor in producing too little cervical fluid. Water is the most common nutrient deficiency among Americans. Cervical fluid has a very high water content, about 90%, so there’s a definite connection between water intake and cervical fluid production.
Lack of arousal
Women may think vaginal dryness is a problem if they happen to notice a decreased wetness with intercourse, but it’s more likely a lack of arousal.
Mistaken ovulation date
When trying to conceive, cervical fluid is optimal just before and during ovulation. If you experience dryness, it’s very possible you’re not ovulating when you think you are, especially if you’re only following a fertility app, for example.
Infection or Irritation
Infections, such as a yeast infection, or other irritation may be an underlying cause of vaginal dryness.
Improving Natural Lubrication
Be sure to stay hydrated.
Aim for half your body weight in water each day. Keep diuretic beverages, such as alcohol, coffee, energy drinks, and fruit juices, to a minimum. If they’re a large part of your daily diet, replenish water lost by consuming 1.5 the amount of diuretic drink in water. (12 ounces of coffee would require 18 ounces of water to replenish the water lost.)
Incorporate healthy fats.
Healthy fats, like butter and omega 3s, play a role in hormonal balance. Omega 3, in particular, is important for nourishing cervical fluid, allowing sperm to live longer.
Some nutritional supplements can be helpful for hormonal balance and therefore cervical fluid production. Evening primrose oil and borage seed oil, for example, both aid in hormonal balance with high omega 6 contents. Cervical fluid may be increased with use of either of these oils.
Avoid cold and allergy medications.
Antihistamines and decongestants, common medications used to remedy cold or allergy symptoms, can have a negative effect on your cervical fluid. These are medications such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Sudafed (pseudoephedrine). Their jobs are to “dry up” the mucous that’s causing your breathing discomfort. However, systemic medications don’t “spot treat” so it’s highly likely they’re drying up other mucous too, such as your cervical mucous.
There’s also the “advice” floating around the internet about using expectorant medications, such as Robitussin (guaifenesin) to help thin out cervical mucous. If cervical mucous is too thick, it’s more likely that hydration or timing may be more the issue. Drinking an expectorant medication should not be advised, in my opinion, because evidence shows that guaifenesin does cross the placenta barrier. In the case of an unknown pregnancy, the baby would be exposed to that medication. Additionally, one may not think twice about using the more complex medication Robitussin DM (guaifenesin plus dextromethorphan). This medication is an expectorant with a cough suppressant. Dextromethorphan is a cousin to codeine, and not something I’d recommend when trying to conceive.
Lubricants to Avoid
There are so many different kind of lubricants available on the market. Many of them, however, have ingredients that are less than supportive of neither fertility, nor vaginal health. Some of these ingredients may include parabens and phthalates (often showing up as fragrances). Parabens, though act as preservatives in products, are known endocrine (or hormone) disruptors and have been found to increase the risk of hormonal problems, including fertility, fibroids, and endometriosis. The vagina, a very absorptive environment, easily absorbs these chemicals.
A popular fertility lubricant, called Pre-Seed, is one that contains not one but two kinds of parabens.
Most commercially available lubricants also contain glycerin which can end up damaging the sensitive vaginal tissue. It can increase the chances of yeast infection as it feeds yeast similarly to sugar. As if feeding yeast isn’t bad enough, the glycerin may also be killing off beneficial bacteria and disrupting the whole vaginal microbiome.
Other lubricants found in most drug stores can slow sperm down. In fact, many packages state “Sperm may be slowed down by glycerol based lubricants. If trying to conceive, consult your doctor before use.” Not to mention, the ingredients in there that can actually damage sperm.
This might seem a bit weird or some kind of old wives’ tale. Egg whites are most similar to fertile cervical fluid. Back in 1990, there was a study that showed how a hen’s fresh egg white was a successful substitute to test in-vitro sperm and provided valuable information about sperm’s motility and functions.
Words of caution: The popular fear surrounding raw eggs is always salmonella. In reality though, the likelihood of contracting salmonella from eggs ranges from 1 in 12,000 to 1 in 30,000, according to Lily Nichols in her book Real Food for Pregnancy. To further reduce any chances, aim for high quality eggs from pasture raised chickens. (Keep the yolks for your own consumption, as egg yolks are an incredible fertility food!) Specialty pasteurized egg whites, such as Egg Beaters, may be a safer option.
*If you have an allergy to eggs, this method may not be suitable for you.
Coconut oil seems to have never-ending uses. As a fertility-supportive lubricant, it can be very effective as it is sperm friendly and doesn’t contain questionable ingredients. Coconut oil does have antimicrobial properties, however, which may disrupt the vaginal microbiome for some women. On the other hand, coconut oil may actually help to clear up lurking yeast infections which can cause an unfriendly vaginal pH. It’s also said to be safe for the sheets, meaning no stains would be left behind as with other oils.
Sweet Almond Oil
Similar to the coconut oil, commonly used for hair and skincare products, sweet almond oil can act as a fertility-friendly lubricant for many couples. This is often compared to using other oils, such as olive oil, but almond oil’s praises are often sung. It’s moisturizing, smells much better than olive or canola oil, and won’t leave your sheets stained.
*If you have a nut allergy, this method may not be suitable for you.
*If you’re not trying to conceive, remember coconut oil and almond oil can break down latex in condoms.
When trying to conceive, it’s important to take all things into account about your diet and your lifestyle, including the lubricant you choose. Chronic vaginal dryness may be due to an underlying condition needing to be addressed before becoming pregnant. Otherwise, be sure to be mindful about the products to which you’re exposing your sensitive vaginal tissue. Keep in mind how absorptive it is down there. Find a safe natural lubricant that works for you…and have fun!