Sex is an important aspect of a marriage, but the pain that vaginal dryness brings may make a woman shun an otherwise pleasurable act.
Peggy is the envy of her female workmates. She is beautiful, drives a fancy car and is married to a fine man. But, she is not as happy as she looks. For the past seven months she has been married, Peggy has never enjoyed love making.
She had been warned earlier that it would hurt the first time she had sex, but the pain has persisted. Her husband, who is more experienced, told her she was not well lubricated. Peggy has resorted to using a lubricant. Although it eases the pain, she feels humiliated each time she uses it.
She also hates the fact that spontaneous sex is a no-go area for her because she always has to apply the lubricant first. Her biggest worry is that her problem might lead her man into another woman’s arms.
For Rebecca, it was after she gave birth that she started experiencing the problem. “My son is nine months old now, but sex is painful. The issue is also affecting my husband,” she says.
Rebecca adds that discussing the problem with an expert would only embarrass her.Some women have found solace in herbalists.
“My biggest clientele are young working women. Others either come to my workplace or I deliver the herbs at their offices. It used to be the duty of the paternal aunt to help these women,” says Hajat Nulyat, a herbalist.
However, Linda Muhire, a marriage therapist, says it is the woman’s mind-set and not the herbs that do the magic.“Once a woman takes the herbs, she will definitely get lubricated because it is in her mind. That is why you find some women cannot have sex without using them.”
Why don’t I have enough lubrication?
According to Dr. Asa Ahimbisibwe, a gynaecologist, one of the most common causes of vaginal dryness is a decrease in oestrogen. Oestrogen enables the vagina to produce lubrication. Oestrogen levels usually decrease during menopause, breastfeeding, or after childbirth.
Ahimbisibwe says some medications also lead to vaginal dryness.
“Allergy and cold medications can decrease the moisture in many parts of a woman’s body, including her vagina. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation treatment to the pelvic area and some birth control pills also lower oestrogen levels.”
Lack of adequate stimulation
Ahimbisibwe says the dryness can be also caused by lack of adequate foreplay.
“We always heap the blame on women, but sometimes men rush into sex before the woman is ready,” he says.
“Most times it is a psychological issue, our minds are the strongest sexual weapons. Once your mind is not at ease, then the problem will arise,” explains Ann Asiimwe, a counsellor at Care Counselling Centre.
“Today women have a lot of responsibilities. You could be trying to have a good time yet thinking about school fees or the pile of work waiting for you, which could lead to dryness,’’ she adds.
According to Dr. Gaston Byamugisha, a counselling psychologist at Kyambogo University, the state of a relationship affects lovemaking, for example, if a woman is angry with her partner or if she suspects he is sleeping with another woman, she may not lubricate during sex.
Byamugisha says the way a woman perceives herself will also affect her during sex.
“There are women who have body esteem issues. A woman may constantly be worried about what her partner thinks of her. This can also happen after childbirth when her body changes,” he says.
Past sexual experience
“Sometimes the woman has been through tough sexual experiences, which are likely to affect her like rape or defilement,” Byamugisha adds.
The woman does not love her partner
Some people say if a woman does not love her partner, she will be dry during sex.
But Asiimwe disagrees. “A woman may love her partner but have issues on her mind, which hinder adequate lubrication. Dryness does not always mean a woman has lost interest in her partner.”
It gets worse that we live in a society where sex is defined by what we see in the movies. Some women have been brainwashed into thinking they have a problem yet they do not.
“The men watch movies and listen to exaggerated tales from their friends. They have unrealistic expectations, which leads girls into thinking they have a problem,” says Samantha Aine, a receptionist.Elizabeth Masaba, a counsellor and nurse at Victoria Medical Stores, says: “Natural lubrication does not come in buckets or litres.”
Dr. Evelyn Nabunya, a gynaecologist at Mulago Hospital, says if there is no discomfort or pain, there is no cause for concern.
Link between diet and vaginal state
According to Dr. Gloria Kirungi, a nutritionist, yoghurt is recommended for women who experience vaginal dryness.
“The bacteria in yoghurt protect the vagina from infections, which usually cause dryness. The bacteria also keep the vaginal walls clean, making lubrication easier. Yoghurt also has moistening properties,” she explains.
Although yoghurt is the best option, Kirungi says fermented millet porridge can also do because it contains bacteria similar to those in yoghurt.She adds that women who eat foods that are high in sugar are more prone to vaginal dryness because these foods dehydrate the body.
Eating a lot of fried foods, according to Kirungi, can affect lubrication because the body uses up more water when breaking down fats.
Kirungi encourages the eating of fruits and vegetables because they rehydrate the body.
How men can help
Dr. Gaston Byamugisha, a counsellor at Kyambogo University, shares the following tips:
If she is stressed and fatigued, be patient and understanding. Look out for the days when she is more relaxed. Help out with some work at home to reduce the fatigue.
Deal with the emotional issues in your relationship. For example if you know your partner is angry with you, take time to talk and apologise.
Women always need reassurance. Compliment her body. Always remind her that she is beautiful and you like her the way she is.
It is important to understand that sex for a man is more physical. Just because you have an erection does not mean that your partner is ready. Understand her body language and be patient with her.
In situations where she is suffering from past trauma, you can help your partner seek professional help.
Devote more time to foreplay
Go with her to see a gynaecologist for the appropriate lubricant.
Discourage her from douching (a stream of water, often containing medicinal or cleansing agents, applied into the vagina) because it disturbs the vagina’s natural cleaning process.