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Vaginal dryness

Vaginal dryness is a common problem that many women have at some point in their lives.

Symptoms of vaginal dryness

You may have vaginal dryness if you:

  • feel sore or itchy in and around your vagina
  • feel pain or discomfort during sex
  • need to pee more often than usual
  • keep getting urinary tract infections (UTIs)

These things may make you not want to have sex.

Causes of vaginal dryness

Vaginal dryness is often caused by things that change your hormone levels, including:

  • the menopause
  • breastfeeding
  • taking contraceptive pills or antidepressants
  • having your womb removed (a hysterectomy)
  • cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy

The change in hormone levels can affect how much vaginal discharge or fluid you have.

You can also have vaginal dryness if you:

  • are not aroused during sex
  • use perfumed soaps, washes or douches (used to wash out the vagina) in and around your vagina
  • have an underlying condition, such as diabetes or Sjögren's syndrome

How to treat vaginal dryness yourself

You can try these things before you talk to your GP. You can get most of them from a pharmacy without a prescription.


  • use water-based lubricants before sex – put these in and around your vagina or on your partner's penis

  • use vaginal moisturisers for vaginal dryness – you can put these inside your vagina to keep it moist

  • use unperfumed soaps and washes around your vagina

  • try to enjoy more foreplay so you feel more aroused during sex


  • do not use perfumed soaps, washes or douches in and around your vagina

  • do not put creams or lotions like petroleum jelly inside your vagina - these can cause an infection

  • do not use moisturisers that are not for your vagina

Talk to your GP if:

  • it's been a few weeks and things you can try yourself are not working
  • it's affecting your daily life
  • you have unusual discharge or bleeding from your vagina
  • you have bleeding after sex or in between your periods

If vaginal dryness is because of changes in your hormone levels, your GP can prescribe:

  • creams
  • gels
  • patches
  • medicines to increase a hormone called oestrogen - this is called HRT

Read more about hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 23 July 2021
Next review due: 23 July 2024