Among the many amazing things your vagina can do (like push out a child and then return to its normal size! Be a musical instrument!) self lubrication might not be a marquee achievement, but it really deserves more credit when you think about it.
Lubrication can make all the difference in the world when it comes to having good sex, and your body has a built in lubrication system right there! Unfortunately, you can’t just will yourself to get wet though, and it can be super frustrating when you are turned on, but your body just doesn’t seem to be on the same page.
To help figure out some of the common causes you might not be getting as wet as you’d like, we spoke to a ton of experts including:
- Dr. Amy Gueye-Weinstein MD, MPH, FACOG
- Ashley Harris, sex and relationship coach at BeyondAges
- Azaria Menezes, a sex and relationship coach
- Vanessa Geffrard, MPH, sexpert for Lovers
- Jennifer Landa, MD, chief medical officer for BodyLogicMD
- Kristie Overstreet, PhD, clinical sexologist
- Laurence Orbuch, director of the GYN Laparoscopic Associates and co-director of Gynecologic Robotic Surgery at the Beth Israel Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City
So read on if you’re curious about some common reasons you might not be getting wet during sex:
1. You’re rushing things.
Various studies have shown that it takes people with vaginas anywhere from 10-45 minutes to get fully aroused (aka blood has flowed to all parts of the vulva), says Geffrard. “Surveys have also shown that couples in the US are having sex anywhere between 5.4 to 19 minutes,” Geffrard says, which means most people aren’t giving enough time to get fully aroused or engaged in foreplay. “We like to think our bodies are like on and off switches,” says Menezes, “but we are much more complex than that.” This one is easily fixable though: just make sure to slow down, don’t rush, really give yourself the full 45 minutes or longer to let yourself become aroused.
2. You might be dehydrated.
Dehydration might also be a culprit behind any vaginal dryness, Menezes says. Seriously! Since our cells are composed of mostly water, poor water intake causes a myriad of detrimental effects on the body, which can include vaginal dryness, Dr. Gueye-Weinstein explains.
This one is also easily fixable though: Dr. Gueye-Weinstein says if you work to consistently stay hydrated (aka drinking around 2.7 liters of water a day, per Mayo Clinic standards), and if dehydration is the only source for your vaginal dryness, you should see improvements in as little as three days! Talk about some v. instant gratification for a major lifestyle change.
3. You might have an underlying medical condition like Sjögren’s syndrome, which can cause vaginal dryness.
If your vaginal dryness often occurs with unusual dryness in other areas of your body such as eyes and mouth, you should consider consulting a doctor, as these could be signs of Sjögren’s (pronounced like “SHOW-grins”) syndrome, says Harris. This condition affects dryness along all the mucous membranes, says Dr. Gueye-Weinstein, and can affect both young and older people with vaginas alike. Sjorgen’s is the most common autoimmune disorder after rheumatoid arthritis, but Dr. Gueye-Weinstein explains, it’s still considered a rare condition, so don’t necessarily freak out yet.
Of course, Dr. Gueye-Weinstein adds, it is always a smart move to have a doctor evaluate you if your vaginal dryness is concerning to you. Your doc can check for hormonal imbalance, infection, irritants, medication, or other rare conditions that could cause vaginal dryness such as Ehrlos danlos syndrome or lupus.
4. Your antidepressants might be causing the dryness.
Not only do SSRIs interfere with libido, they can also impact vaginal lubrication, explains Dr. Landa. Talk to your psychiatrist about switching to a different medication until you find one that works best for your mental health and your sexual health.
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5. You’re breastfeeding.
Dr. Landa says that breastfeeding is also a common time when women have trouble with vaginal dryness due to hormones.
6. You’re a smoker.
Aging, smoking, and other factors that can cause blockage of the arteries could block small arteries in the vaginal area and reduce moisture there, Dr. Landa explains. “The main reason we get wet to begin with is that when the blood vessels in the vaginal area get engorged (like an erection in a man), the higher blood pressure in the blood vessels causes serum to leak across the blood vessels and the mucous membranes of the vagina leading to more moisture.” Dr Landa says.
7. Your hormones are imbalanced.
One of the most common reasons for a dry vag is a decrease in estrogen levels during menopause, perimenopause, after childbirth, or during breastfeeding, but cancer treatments like chemotherapy and pelvic radiation can also lead to low estrogen and a decrease in vaginal lubrication. If you’ve never experienced any of those things though, it’s probably not that.
8. You’re not connected with your body during sex.
Overstreet says if you simply go through the motions of sex and don’t enjoy the moment, this could be also factor. “If you are disconnected from your body and the present moment, you aren’t allowing your body to fully be aroused. This arousal is what gets the fluids pumping.” To tap into your body more fully, Overstreet recommends practicing mindfulness and breathing exercises to connect with your body and stay in the moment. The more in tune you are with your body, the more you can relax and allow yourself to be turned on.
9. The medications you’re taking have side effects that are drying you out.
Allergy and cold medications with antihistamines and even some asthma medications can cause vaginal dryness, so I guess the solution is simple: Never leave your house again and stop having asthma. Easy, right?! But you could try switching to more natural remedies or talk to your doctor about other options.
10. You might be feeling guilty or shameful about sex.
Overstreet says if you struggle with feeling guilty or dirty about having sex, this can also keep your body from getting wet. “Whether you have felt this way since you were a child or as an adult, it’s important that you work through these. If your mind is telling you that what you’re doing is wrong, your body will listen to it.” Overstreet says it’s important to explore any negative or guilty feelings you have about sex, and work to change your irrational thoughts into rational ones. Try seeing a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy. “When your thoughts and beliefs about sex are healthy and accepting, your body will respond favorably.”
11. Your partner isn’t that great in bed. I know it seems obvious, but it’s not you, it’s them.
Sometimes vaginal dryness is just caused by having a low sex drive or having issues with your sexual partner. If they’re not doing what they should be doing or they are and it’s just not working for you, you’re not going to be as wet as you would be if you were really attracted to someone who was spinning your clit in circles like a plate on a stick.
12. The soap you’re using is messing with you.
Some women are allergic to chemicals in soaps, detergents, hygiene products, dyes, and perfumes, which could be on your underwear or towels, and that could cause dryness or irritation, which often go hand in hand. Even some lubes if they’re not right for you can cause dryness, so try switching to natural detergents or a different, more natural lube.
13. You’re way too stressed out.
It’s really hard for women to get turned on when they’re stressed out and not focusing on the sexy thing at hand. And if you’re too distracted to get turned on, your vagina’s not going to get turned on and lubed either. So basically take a nap, have some pizza, and watch Magic Mike. Ideally, you’ll be fine.
Of course, if it is severe and persistent, check in with your gynecologist to make sure it’s nothing serious. And then if it’s not, that Magic Mike thing though. For real.
This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated.
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