We’ve all been conditioned to think that being aroused means you’ll automatically get super wet down there. But while getting wet can mean that you’re ready to go, it’s not always tied to sex.
Technically, discharge and moisture is part of having a vagina. And yeah, if you suddenly start producing more than your norm, it could mean you’re ramped up and ready for intercourse, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the Yale School of Medicine.
But there are lots of reasons why you might not feel wet and ready for action when the time is right. In fact, Jessica Shepherd, MD, a gynecologist and founder of Sanctum Med + Wellness, thinks having trouble with vaginal lubrication is “more common than women think.” Basically, there’s nothing wrong with you if you aren’t able to reach a certain level of wetness—it could be due to something as simple as your own personal anatomy or even a yeast infection.
If you’re not getting as wet as you’d like, Dr. Shepherd says you shouldn’t be afraid to break out the lube: “People associate lubricant with being old or having something wrong with them,” she says. “And I want to take away that stigma.” Same same.
Instead, Dr. Shepherd says, lube can be a quick and easy way to get wet down there on demand.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons why you might not be well-lubricated down there, and they’re not always obvious. These are some of the biggies.
1. You’re naturally an “under-producer.”
Fun fact: Everyone generates differing amounts of wetness during sex, says Dr. Shepherd. In the same way that the people in an indoor cycling class sweat varying amounts or some new moms produce more milk than others, with any secretions, “you have some people who are under-producers, moderate producers, and over-producers,” she says. If you fall into the first category, embrace the wonderful world of lube.
2. There’s not enough foreplay.
Have you ever watched a sex scene in a movie that goes from kiss to climax in approximately 30 seconds, and thought to yourself, “How did she do that?” IRL, she did not. “If a woman is complaining of decreased lubrication for sex, the first question I’d say is, ‘Is there enough foreplay going on?’” Dr. Minkin says.
If you’re bored, uninterested, or just not connecting with your partner, it also follows that you’d have a pretty hard time getting in the mood and wet. (But, as you’ll see, there are plenty of other reasons that have zero to do with your arousal or attraction to your partner.)
3. You have a yeast infection.
If you’re typically ready to go down there, but that’s taken a recent turn, there’s a chance an infection could be to blame, Dr. Minkin says. “Certain vaginitis situations can lead to dryness, and classically, yeast infections can do that.” While it’s possible that dryness would be your only symptom, you’d probably also be dealing with itchiness, she says. If you’re not sure if you have a yeast infection, consult your doctor.
4. You’re breastfeeding.
Obviously, the body experiences a major shift in hormones around pregnancy and delivery. One of those changes has to do with breastfeeding: The hormone prolactin stimulates lactation, so women who breastfeed have high prolactin levels. But bummer alert, as far as dryness is concerned: “It can also depress your estrogen, so you can be dry,” says Dr. Minkin. The good news: She says it’s totally safe to use both lube and vaginal moisturizer when you’re postpartum.
5. You’re going through perimenopause or menopause.
As your cycle slows down—usually when you’re in your 40s but sometimes even in your mid-30s—your ovaries start making less estrogen, and your vaginal tissue becomes thinner and dryer. This is another time when you might want to break out the lube and vaginal moisturizer, Dr. Minkin says.
6. You’re taking the birth control pill.
Estrogen is the hormone that leads to lubrication, so it’s possible that a low-dose birth control pill could mean less wetness, explains Dr. Minkin. Try using lube, or talk to your doc: She might suggest a different pill if you’re unhappy.
7. You’re on certain medications that dry you out.
There are a bunch of meds that can mess with your ability to get wet. First up is antihistamines. These ubiquitous and OTC meds can dry out your sinuses and your nether region. “When people are on them for allergies, they may notice drying of the vaginal canal, which can lead to decreased vaginal lubrication,” says Dr. Shepherd.
Accutane is another potential issue. This powerful acne drug, with the generic name isotretinoin, reduces how much sebum oil people produce and shrinks their sebaceous oil glands. Since it’s intentionally drying, people taking it experience dryness of the skin, eyes, and nose, along with vaginal dryness.
Antidepressants can lower sex drive, Dr. Minkin points out. She notes that antipsychotics can work through that same prolactin mechanism mentioned above, increasing it and therefore decreasing estrogen.
8.You’re about to get your period.
You might have noticed that your levels of wetness change with your cycle. If you haven’t, FYI: They typically do. After you ovulate and before you get your period, you can experience some dryness. “Levels of estrogen and progesterone are low when you begin your period and, as a result, vaginal dryness can occur,” says women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D.
9.You’re using a water-based lube.
While lubes, in general, will get you wet, “water-based lubes can dry up quickly,” Dr. Wider says. As a result, you may need to keep reapplying water-based lubes, making you think that you’re drier than you actually are.
10. You have a medical condition.
Certain conditions—for example, thyroid disorders, and the immune system disorder Sjogren’s syndrome, most commonly associated with dry eyes and a dry mouth—are also associated with down-below dryness, Dr. Minkin says. Is your vaginal dryness just one of the multiple not-good symptoms you’re experiencing? Talk to a doc.
11. You’ve been douching.
Douching can lead to vaginal irritation and dryness, according to the Office on Women’s Health. And that’s only one of the reasons to avoid douching, says Dr. Minkin. It can also wash away good bacteria, raise your down-there pH level, and basically welcome bad bacteria to the area. In other words: Hello, infection.
12. You smoke.
Vaginal lubrication results from increased blood flow to the area. One of the many detrimental effects of lighting up? “Smoking causes decreased circulation of blood flow,” says Dr. Shepherd. Basically: Less blood flowing, including to the pelvic area, spells less vaginal lubrication. As if you needed *another* reason to quit!
13. You’re stressed AF.
Obviously, it’s hard to get aroused and lubricated if you’re restless and nervous, your mind moving a million miles a second. Try some exercises for feeling calmer, and see how that impacts your bedroom activity levels.
But more serious mental health conditions, including depression, can also affect your sex drive. “A person’s sex drive or libido can be significantly impacted by depression because their ability to anticipate and experience pleasure can get dulled by the depression itself,” says Dr. Wider.
Medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can also lower your sex drive, making it harder to get wet, she says. If you have depression, are struggling to get wet, and it bothers you, talk to your doctor about your options.
14. You’re not drinking enough water.
You know, you know—you should drink more water. (The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends having 11.5 cups of fluids a day for women, from both liquids and foods.) But not being hydrated enough can mess with your ability to get wet, too. “Dehydration can cause vaginal dryness in the same way it causes dry skin in other areas of the body,” Dr. Wider says. It can also make you less likely to be in the mood (because, hello, your body is thirsty!) leading to even more dryness.
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