Sand dunes

Why is my vag dry?

Why is my vag dry?

By Nicole Guappone

When you think about your vag, do you see images of dry deserts or sandy beaches? We hope not, but if that’s the case, you’re not alone! Vaginal dryness is a common issue that a lot of folks feel embarrassed about or even confused by, especially if it’s something they didn’t struggle with in the past. 

We spoke to Dr. Sonia Bahlani, pelvic pain specialist, to find out why your W.A.P. might not be so W.A. anymore, what vaginal lubrication is, and what can negatively impact it. 

What is vaginal lubrication? 

The vagina is a naturally—yes, we’re gonna use that word—moist part of the body. But sometimes, it needs to create a little more moisture—namely, for getting it on. According to Dr. Bahlani, “it’s something that seems like it should be pretty basic, but there are actually different thoughts about where vaginal lubrication comes from.” 

Vaginal lubrication is a combination of

  • cervical secretions
  • Bartholin gland secretions: the Bartholin glands are pea-sized glands found behind and on either side of the labia that surround the entrance to the vagina
  • vaginal transudate: “essentially a combination of water and a protein that can be secreted from the walls of the vagina,” Dr. Bahlani says.

These secretions are also known as “mucin, an extremely slippery substance that acts as the primary lubricant during intercourse, giving the sensation of feeling ‘wet’ during arousal.”

Pro-tip: “activate” your Bartholin glands by massaging/gently rubbing the skin between your labia majora and minora. Add a little lube for less friction. Bonus: this will also stimulate your internal clitoris for even more pleasure! 

Is vaginal discharge the same as lubrication? 

Not exactly! But some lubrication is made up of vaginal discharge. Over the course of the menstrual cycle (unless you are on hormonal birth control or have a condition that affects your hormones), the amount of vaginal discharge your body produces changes. 

Around ovulation, hormonal fluctuations increase the amount of discharge to create what is known as “fertile quality cervical fluid.” This fluid is produced from the cells of the cervix and at this point in the cycle, is slippery, thin, and wet (rather than thick, creamy, or chunky). The thinner and slipperier fluid makes it easier for sperm to travel from the start to the finish line. 

If you find yourself hornier around ovulation (which is very common), your vaginal lubrication includes this fluid and you may even notice this fluid in your underwear even in the absence of foreplay.

Stress can dry up your vag

Yeah, unfortunately it’s true. Stress can impact vaginal lubrication in a number of ways. 

Stress makes us clench

When we’re stressed, we tend to clench our jaws. Have you heard of the jaw-pelvic floor connection? It’s a thing! When you clench your jaw, it’s very likely that you are (unconsciously) tightening your pelvic floor muscles

“That alters capillary blood flow to the vagina,” Dr. Bahlani says, “which can ultimately alter vaginal secretion by altering the amount of transudate we produce.” Vasodilators open, or dilate, blood cells to promote blood flow to the tissues of the body. When vasodilation is inhibited, we lose some of our ability to self-lubricate.

Clenching can also alter Bartholin gland secretions, which reduces the amount of lubrication they produce. 

Stress raises cortisol

Cortisol is a hormone that plays an important role in the body’s stress response. There’s a “just the right amount” level of cortisol that keeps the body out of the fight or flight stress response, but when cortisol is high and we feel stressed, it changes our body’s inflammatory response. It can also suppress your immune system, and yes, even affect your vagina’s ability to get wet. When cortisol rises, estrogen decreases, and you need estrogen to keep your vaginal tissues comfy and lubricated…Which leads us to hormones!

Hormone levels have a major impact on vaginal lubrication

The hormones that get your juices flowing can be affected by so many different things! This includes normal shifts throughout your monthly cycle, but you may start noticing more regular dryness if you are peri- or postmenopausal.

Lubrication can also be affected by the drop in estrogen produced by breast/chestfeeding, so don’t expect everything to immediately go back to “normal” postpartum if you decide to nurse and/or pump. 

How does menopause change the vagina? 

Menopausal changes to the vagina and vulva used to be called vaginal atrophy, but now you may see GSUM: genitourinary syndrome of menopause. According to Dr. Jen Gunter, gynecologist and author of The Menopause Manifesto, up to 80% of women and AFAB folks may experience genitourinary symptoms during their menopause transition. 

Dr. Gunter describes menopause as “occurring when there are no more follicles in the ovaries capable of ovulating.” These follicles are the main source of estrogen, so when they start to disappear, so does our estrogen. It’s that drop in estrogen that causes many of the symptoms of menopause.

Lack of estrogen, reduction in blood flow, and a drop in collagen production all have an effect on the vulva and vaginal tissues. “Collagen is a protein that, among other things, gives tissues their strength and stretch,” Dr. Gunter writes, “so the loss of collagen with menopause and age leads to increased tissue fragility and decreased elasticity.” 

Hormonal birth control can contribute to dryness

“Patients who are on long term [hormonal] birth control may see changes in their lubrication,” Dr. Bahlani says. It “alters testosterone levels, and we know there are testosterone receptors in the vulva, which ultimately alters pH and lubrication.” 

All of this to say: lube is your friend. So is foreplay! 

And if you find that that isn’t enough (it very often may not be during the menopause transition), there are other ways to support vulvar and vaginal changes before and after menopause. You may start with a daily over the counter vaginal moisturizer, or find that you need something like a topical estrogen and/or testosterone prescription from your doctor.

Other medications and conditions can also affect lubrication levels

Your allergy meds might dry up your runny nose, but it can dry out other things, too! “Antihistamines, by virtue of how they work to decrease inflammation, can alter lubrication,” Dr. Bahlani tells us. “Antihistamines work on h1 receptors, and we have those same receptors in the vagina. It’s just another example of how everything is connected!” 

This is not even to mention medications like antidepressants. Not only can antidepressants have an impact on your libido (by lowering it), it can also affect your vagina’s ability to get wet. A lot of folks decide that these side effects are absolutely worth the improvement that these medications make to their lives, and it’s nothing a bottle of lube can’t help. 

If you feel that a medication you are on is having a negative impact on your vagina’s ability to lubricate, talk to your doctor! 

According to Dr. Bahlani, other causes of vaginal dryness include cigarettes and certain autoimmune disorders. “When I see a patient with Sjogren’s or lupus,” she says, “it causes inflammation in various different glands, so these patients are often more prone to vaginal pH changes and lubrication changes.”

Can not drinking enough water dehydrate your vag?

According to Dr. Bahlani, it’s not well studied. “However,” she says, “we know that hydration does affect glandular secretions throughout our body. For example, if you’re dehydrated, you sweat differently. So the concept of dehydration affecting vaginal lubrication makes total sense to me.

“The risk benefit ratio is nothing, so stay hydrated!” 


There you have it. If you feel a little dry down there, you’re not alone. If you think it’s stress related, practicing some of our mind and body calming techniques can help. If you think it’s related to a medication or health condition, see your doctor. In the meantime, grab a bottle of lube and drink lots of water! 

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