You ask whether there's a downside to using saliva as a lubricant. What makes it good for digestion makes it not so good as a lubricant: The enzymes that help break down food can be irritating to the delicate vulvar skin. As we lose estrogen, the vulvar tissue gets more fragile and delicate; what once was fine may become uncomfortable.
I also hear from many women that water-based lubricants don't last as long as they'd like them to; they prefer a silicone or water/silicone hybrid lubricant for staying power through more foreplay.
That said, if it works for you and your partner, you can keep using saliva for some or all lubrication. Just be aware of the potential for irritation, and wash with a warm cloth after sex to minimize exposure.
Sjogren's is an immune system disorder most commonly identified by dry eyes and dry mouth, but vaginal dryness is among the additional symptoms. For a vaginal moisturizer, be sure you're starting with a product designed to be effective for that purpose (and Yes and Emerita are among the favorites we offer). Normally moisturizers are used twice a week, but with a condition like Sjogren's, you may increase that frequency.
For a lubricant, I'd recommend a hybrid (like Sliquids Organic Silk) or a silicone (like Pink). The silicone lubricant will last longer and feel more slippery, which usually means less discomfort. The hybrid, which has some of the benefits of both water-based and silicone, may be your choice if you use a silicone vibrator. If you want to experiment to compare lubricants that are water-based, hybrid, and silicone, we offer a Personal Selection Kit so you don't need to invest in a full-size bottle just for a test!
You have plenty of options in managing your comfort and Sjogren's! I wish you the best of luck.
From what you describe, you sound like a typical patient of mine! About 4 percent of women never can have an orgasm. "Orgasmic dysfunction," or difficulty with orgasm, is reported in 9 to 27 percent of women. Sixty to 80 percent of us cannot have an orgasm with intercourse only; we need more direct stimulation, whether manual or "battery powered."
There are lots of reasons for "dysfunction," including neurological disorders, post-surgical complications, endocrine or medical disorders, side effects of medications or drugs; most often the reason is sociologic or psychologic, which includes everything from unsuitable stimulation, poor relationships or communication, history of sexual trauma, and more.
And as we grow older, vascular and hormonal changes don't make orgasm any easier.
If the vibrator you're using isn't quite doing the job, you might trade up to a more powerful model. We've chosen the vibrators we offer at MiddlesexMD (most rechargeable instead of battery-powered) in part because they have stronger motors, which equals stronger vibrations and more sensation. Take your time and focus on arousal as well as the "end game." Even if you're not experiencing dryness, a lubricant can encourage more touch and playfulness. Warming lubricants or oils can also increase sensation.
Perhaps the most difficult advice to follow: While orgasm is quite lovely (and good for our health!), making it a required outcome of intimacy can make it more difficult to achieve. The more you can focus in the moment, on each sensation and touch, the lower the obstacles!
In the last post, we talked about how pH levels affect the vagina. The second part of good vaginal health has to do with moisture. As we say at MiddlesexMD, moist tissues are strong tissues.
Normally, your vagina moisturizes and cleanses itself by secreting a clear fluid that seeps from blood vessels in the vaginal wall. When you become sexually aroused, blood flow increases, and so does the lubrication. Unfortunately, this process is regulated by estrogen, and we all know what’s been happening to that hormone lately.
With decreasing estrogen levels and circulation, vaginal tissue becomes thin and dry. Maybe you’ve noticed that you don’t lubricate as easily during sex so that penetration is difficult or painful, or maybe you’ve experienced vaginal dryness and discomfort at other times as well.
The good news is that this condition is easy to fix. You moisturize your skin regularly; you should do the same with the vagina. First, a little refresher on the difference between vaginal moisturizers and lubricants. Lubricants may be used in the vagina and on the penis or toys during intercourse to help with penetration and to make sex more pleasurable. Lubricants come in water- or silicone-based varieties or a hybrid of the two, and in various viscosities (thick to thin). Choice of lubricant is a highly personal preference and may depend on the activity you have in mind. Because it’s helpful to try different kinds, we’ve compiled a sampler kit of our favorites.
Lubricants last several hours, and the only rule of thumb related to vaginal health is that no oil-based product, including petroleum jelly, should be used in the vagina. They’re hard for the vagina to flush out; they tend to disrupt pH balance; and they also tend to deteriorate condoms. Lubricants can be used in addition to a moisturizer.
The sole purpose of vaginal moisturizers, on the other hand, is to keep vaginal tissue moist and healthy. Moisturizers last two or three days and should be used regularly, just like facial products. And just like anything you use on your body, you want your vaginal moisturizer to contain natural, high-quality ingredients. A few common ingredients in vaginal moisturizers (that are also present in lubricants) bear some examination:
You say that your husband had a tumor removed from his lip, and you've experienced some discomfort since then after oral sex. The only possibility I can imagine that's specific to your situation is if he's using topical chemotherapy, a scant amount of which could be transferred to you.
It's more likely that the saliva is an irritant. As our vulvar skin becomes more thin and fragile, it can be irritated by enzymes in the saliva. You can use warm water--you don't need soap--to rinse after oral-genital contact. And you may find more comfort by using a lubricant like LiquidSilk or Yes (which is also a moisturizer) at the opening of the vagina and surrounding area.
As we age, along with everything else we lose (our keys, our glasses, our hearing), it’s common to lose sensation in our genitals. Less sensation makes it harder to achieve arousal, which can lead to becoming less interested in sex. Blame it on lower hormone levels. One easy, inexpensive, and often fun way to stimulate the genital area is with warming oils or lubricants.
There’s a reason why when we become aroused, we feel “hot.” Blood flows to the genital area, creating a flush of warmth. Warming oils or lubricants are products that cause a chemical reaction when applied to the skin. They create a sensation of warmth that simulates the heat of arousal. It’s intended to feel good and to give us a little “leg up” to actual arousal.
Warming oils and lubricants may contain minty or peppery ingredients, or they may contain natural herbs, spices, or even vitamins that cause that a warming chemical reaction. Some may have added flavors or colors.
Use these warming products on healthy, intact tissue; don’t use them if you have any irritation or abrasion in your genital area. It’s also important to test a small area to make sure you like the feeling and don’t have an allergic reaction.
Warming lubricants that are water-based can be applied as you would any lubricant—a generous tablespoonful to your own or your partner’s genitals.
Warming oils are intended to be used only externally. Inside, they’re not conducive to good vaginal health, and they can also degrade the latex in a condom. You can spread warming oils on the labia, over the clitoral hood, and around the vaginal area. Some women like to include their nipples. Men like it, too, but avoid using oils on the penis if there’s a chance of vaginal penetration.
In addition to their practical function, warming lubricants or oils can add an element of shared pleasure to your sex life. And that can be arousing, too.
Both Replens and Yes, the vaginal moisturizers we offer at MiddlesexMD, are perfectly safe for oral sex. In fact, all of the products we offer are chosen with safety in mind.
Your partner may have personal reactions to a taste or texture of either product, or to personal lubricants. Feedback through our personal lubricant selection kit proves just how individual those reactions are!
If you or your partner isn't happy with a moisturizer or lubricant, don't think you've got to give it up! Just check out some other options to find one that works for both of you.
Vagifem will have some influence on tissues within four to six weeks; I hope it won't be long before you note some benefit.
Beyond tissue health and lubrication, having comfortable sex depends on vaginal "capacity." I've recommended vaginal dilators to a number of women who've found them helpful; dilators are smooth cylinders of graduated sizes used to gradually, gently stretch the vaginal opening and depth.
If it really is just dryness (did I say "just dryness"?) making intercourse painful, the Vagifem and a good lubricant should get you back on track. And, of course, remembering to take the time you need for arousal!
Vaginal moisturizers can typically be applied in two ways: either with your fingertip in the vagina and externally as needed, or with an applicator in the vagina. Applicators often come pre-filled (like the Yes product offered at MiddlesexMD) for one use, but, in general, the amount to use is an individual decision based on the degree of dryness or discomfort.
Manufacturers of vaginal moisturizers generally recommend application every 3 or 4 days, but, again, it's you who will need to find the frequency that works best for you.
Women I talk to often like the pre-filled applicators for "maintenance" application, and then to use a bulk bottle when they need lubricant for sexual intimacy. And, of course, you might find that a personal lubricant in addition to regular moisturizing is what you like best.
Most of a woman’s genital lubrication comes during arousal, not with orgasm (unless you're wondering about female ejaculation; there isn't agreement about whether this occurs for women, and if it does occur, most women aren't aware of it). And remember, most women can only achieve orgasm with direct clitoral stimulation; few women experience orgasm with penetration alone.
The amount of secretion--or vaginal lubrication--is most dependent on the time and energy and technique put into foreplay or arousal. After menopause, both arousal and lubrication are affected by the absence of estrogen in the genital tissues, which also decreases blood circulation.
Using a vaginal estrogen product (by prescription only) can allow a woman to produce more secretions on her own, which many women prefer. Talk to your health care provider about considering that as an option.
Non-hormonal (and non-prescription) options include vaginal moisturizers and lubricants. Moisturizers (like Replens or Yes) are used every few days and keep the vagina moist and supple; lubes are used at the time of sex to add comfort. The hybrid (Liquid Silk and Sliquid Silk) and silicone (Pink and Oceanus) lubes last somewhat longer than the water-based; water-based lubes may require re-application during a sexual encounter (which can itself be intimate).
Sharing with your partner what feels best to you will be helpful. Let your partner know that a lube is beneficial for your pleasure and find a way, together, to incorporate it in a tasteful, non-embarrassing--even arousing!--way.