Just like the rest of your body, your vagina will undergo some changes as you get older.
As if puberty and childbirth weren’t enough, your vagina—and the surrounding area—are in for many more changes as you age, especially after menopause strikes.
It's not something to fear. It's normal, and knowing what's to come can help alleviate any of the shock you might otherwise feel upon discovering these changes.
Sadly, these changes aren’t oft-discussed topics, meaning we’re typically uninformed and woefully unprepared for the realities of our aging lady flowers.
No longer. Read on to discover exactly how your vagina transforms and adjusts to maturing, as well as tips from experts on keeping it healthy and yes, active.
Keep in mind that everyone's different, so you might not experience all of these, or you might see varying degrees of these changes. With that said, let us look into the crystal ball of your vaginal future!
First thing’s first: while closely connected, your vulva and vagina are two different things. The vulva is the outside, and the vagina is the canal. Often, women talk about their vagina, and what they really mean is their vulva, the lips, the clitoris, the labia majora, the labia minora, and even the urethra.
Your vulva remains largely unchanged from your late teens to your 40s, and even into your 50s. At some point, however, we can begin to experience Vulvovaginal Atrophy (VVA) (a.k.a. Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause, or GSM) resulting from the gradual loss of estrogen that comes with perimenopause and menopause.
That means, the tissue can become more pale and smoother, the labia can become less distinct, and the vulva will lose its fullness.
While cosmetic surgeons have seen a jump in labiaplasty procedures in recent years, this natural process is nothing to freak out about. Experts don’t think women need to be that concerned about it. Simply wash the area gently with water and move on.
In your 30s
Your private parts change after you have your first child, which for many women happens in their 30s. With each vaginal birth, the pelvic floor muscles stretch, distend, and tear in the vagina to allow the baby’s head to come through. This tight space will never be quite the same over time.
Subsequently, many women notice their vagina feels a little airier or roomier, and it may be slightly looser during sex, though this varies greatly from woman to woman.
Pelvic-floor muscle tears don't just change the way your vagina feels. The outside of the vagina can appear saggy or as if something’s bulging out, doctors report.
People may have redundant tissue that they notice as they get older. That’s just some of the change from childbirth and collective age on top of it.
Inside the vulva
Did you know that if you get pregnant, you might develop varicose veins in your vulva?
It's usually due to excess blood flow, according to experts. Plus, your body might have a harder time moving blood around due to weaker vein valves, they explain.
Sometimes these "vulvar variscosities" are painless, but other times they can cause discomfort. Although people with varicose veins on their legs can seek out compression socks, unfortunately, there are no socks for vulvas. But maternity compression pantyhose may help, and your gynecologist can help you come up with some other fixes.
People tend to get frightened, but these are common, doctors report. They typically go away after delivery, but they can be permanent.
The hair part
As you approach menopause, your pubic hair can change in appearance.
Perhaps the most noticeable change in your vaginal area is the greying, thinning, and loss of pubic hair.
You might start to notice a few gray hairs crop up, but that doesn't happen to everyone. A lot of women entering menopause, or after it’s been going on for a little time, see that their pubic hair becomes sparser.
Usually, you don’t lose the hair entirely, but a lot can be lost. Your scalp, leg, and underarm hair may thin, as well, especially after menopause.
That can be bothersome for some people, but other people notice it as a welcome change. This means you’ll need to shave less as you get older.
On the not-so-bright side, hair begins to appear elsewhere. There are women who gain hair on their face and other places they don’t want, gynecologists note.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat this, like creams and laser treatments, which are discreet and fairly inexpensive.
The vagina itself
VVA affects the vagina as well as the vulva. The loss of our sex hormone (estrogen) can result in dramatic changes in the appearance and function of the vagina. Namely, the vaginal opening can shrink, and the length of the vagina can shrink. You can also get irritation.
That irritation occurs because the vaginal walls become thinner, losing elasticity and especially moisture. Anywhere from 20 to 50 % of women start to have this complaint of burning, itching—and these are chronic sensations, doctors report.
With sex, it becomes more pronounced. And that’s when women really notice it, because it’s painful.
And while sex is the main instigator of itchiness, there are some people who notice it other times, maybe when they’re walking or doing exercise.
Drier down there
Menopause can leave your vagina significantly drier than it used to be. This is one of the major ways menopause can affect sex.
Without the usual level of estrogen, vaginal tissue can get dry and less elastic, resulting in less pleasurable sex. The vagina has rugae, which are vaginal wrinkles, experts note. They're a sign of moisture and the tissue being able to stretch. When you go through menopause, they tend to flatten out because of the dryness.
The skin inside the vagina is as pink and moist as the inside of your mouth. After menopause, when there is no estrogen about, the vaginal lining gradually becomes paler due to a reducing blood supply, as well as flatter and less stretchy.
Luckily, there are various solutions you and your doctor can discuss if you're interested.