Birth control can make sex much more convenient, and many hormonal contraceptives are extraordinarily dependable; most progestin-based methods are 99 percent effective.

However, most types of birth control have side effects, which can range from minor to serious depending on a number of factors. For example, smokers shouldn’t use combination birth control pills, as they can increase the risk of life threatening blood clots.

Vaginal dryness is a much less serious – but much more common – side effect. If you’re receiving a hormonal birth control treatment, here’s what you need to know.

Can My Birth Control Cause Vaginal Dryness?

Here’s a quick answer: any birth control method that affects your hormones could conceivably cause dryness. Pills, shots, and other hormonal contraceptives work by essentially tricking your body into thinking that it’s already pregnant by providing a large dose of certain hormones (this is an oversimplification, by the way – talk to your doctor for a more thorough explanation of how your birth control works).

These hormones can cause temporary changes in your reproductive system, and vaginal dryness is a common sign of lowered estrogen levels and other hormonal changes. Dryness often makes sex uncomfortable and can cause chafing and irritation for some women.

The following types of birth control contain estrogen and/or progesterone-mimicking hormones:

It’s important to note that some women take birth control for years without uncomfortable dryness. Your lifestyle, your contraceptive, and your biology will determine whether you notice any symptoms.

What Can I Do About Vaginal Dryness?

If you experience vaginal dryness or any other unusual symptoms while taking birth control, talk to your physician. You can often reduce unpleasant side effects by switching to a different drug. If you recently switched or if you’ve just started taking birth control for the first time, some symptoms may also disappear on their own after you’ve been taking the treatment for a few months.

Some amount of vaginal dryness is normal, and it has nothing to do with arousal (so breathe easy, guys). You can make sex much more comfortable by using a high-quality personal lubricant.

When choosing a lube to treat dryness, stick with silicone or water-based products. Many women prefer water-based lubes for their natural feel, but silicone can last longer. Thinner lubricants tend to work best for regular vaginal use. Avoid products with cooling or warming ingredients – if you’re already experiencing irritation, these additives might be overwhelming.

If you’re planning on using your lubricant on a regular basis, you may prefer a hypoallergenic product with limited ingredients. We carry a number of products with aloe vera and other certified organic ingredients designed to hold in moisture, which can reduce your discomfort.

Finally, you should know that vaginal dryness can cause an imbalance in your vaginal flora, increasing your chances of contracting a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. Lubricants can help, but it’s all the more reason to speak to a physician as soon as you notice symptoms.