How Your Vagina Changes As You Age

Here's what you should expect.

There are a few visible signs of aging, like crow's feet and gray hairs, and these changes are completely normal. But there's another body part that's aging along with your hair, skin, and muscles that you may not realize: your vagina.

"Just like any other part of your body with skin, glands, and hair follicles, the appearance of the vulva and vagina is affected by the aging process and how well you care of it," Sherry Ross, MD, a Santa Monica, California–based ob-gyn and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period, told Health.

It's not just the appearance of your vagina that transforms as you move through the decades: The way it feels on a daily basis and how it functions during sex also change. We asked ob-gyns to tell us the age-related vaginal changes all women can expect, and what you can do about the changes to keep your sexual health and your sex life strong.

How Your Vagina Changes in Your Late 20s and 30s

While sex hormones have been coursing through your system, over time, your labia becomes enlarged, pubic hair develops, and your vagina begins producing daily discharge. Your vagina changes again after you have your first child: For many people, their first pregnancy happens between their late 20s and 30s.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the mean age of women when they give birth to their first child is around 27 in the United States. Further, the mean age of women when they give birth is between 28 and 30 in the United States as of 2020 data. This is supported by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data brief published in September 2021, which indicated that the birth rate was 90.2 births per 1,000 women aged 25-29 and 94.9 births per 1,000 women aged 30-35 in 2020—the highest birth rates for all age groups 15-44.

With each vaginal birth, "the pelvic floor muscles stretch, distend, and tear in the vagina to allow the baby's head to come through," Dr. Ross said. 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.

Additionally, 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," Salena Zanotti, MD, an ob-gyn with the Cleveland Clinic, told Health. "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." Meanwhile, fluctuations in estrogen postpartum can lead to vaginal dryness, though this dryness is generally temporary.

How Your Vagina Changes in Your 40s and 50s

Perimenopause is the time period before menopause, and during this time, your body starts producing less estrogen. "This is most common in the 40s, but for some women can be later," said ob-gyn John Thoppil, MD, an ob-gyn at River Place OB/GYN. "Estrogen keeps vaginal collagen plump and moist and helps provide good blood flow to the area."

Without estrogen flatlining, the vagina gets thinner and less elastic, and it produces less lubrication, Dr. Zanotti said. After menopause (the average age is 52, per the Office on Women's Health [OWH]), your vagina and clitoris can shrink, Dr. Ross added, and your labia will become less full, potentially changing in color and may even appear to sag. Vulva-vaginal atrophy—which is when vaginal dryness, irritation, and soreness occur—can set in, and this can make sex painful.

How To Keep Your Vagina Healthy and Your Sex Life Flourishing

Here are some recommendations to slow the changes or ease symptoms when these age-related changes come about.

Consider Using Lube

For individuals approaching, or who are in, menopause and those experiencing vaginal dryness due to temporary estrogen fluctuations, personal lubricants can be helpful. There are many lubricant options from drugstore brands to natural options like coconut oil—which some women have preferred to use as noted by researchers of a March 2020 Menopause study. These products can alleviate day-to-day dryness, as well as the pain and discomfort that dryness causes during sex.

Use Topical Estrogen

As perimenopause comes about and menopause sets in, supplemental estrogen cream or an estrogen ring can help relieve dryness and keep vaginal tissue thicker and more elastic, Dr. Zanotti said. "Most women can safely supplement vaginal estrogen," Dr. Thoppil added, noting that a lower dose is absorbed through the body with these methods than with oral hormones.

For some women (breast cancer survivors, for example), estrogen supplements of any kind—oral or local—aren't recommended, per MedlinePlus. Make sure you talk to your healthcare provider about any risk factors before getting a prescription.

Continue Having Sex

The more you have sex, the easier it is to keep having sex. When you don't have intercourse, Dr. Zanotti explained, the vagina becomes more rigid and vaginal tissue less elastic. Furthermore, the OWH stated that having sex more often could "increase blood flow to your vagina and help keep tissues healthy." This applies to women in their 40s experiencing perimenopause as well as women who are post-menopausal.

Hydrate From the Inside Out

There are foods and beverages that can be bad or good for your vaginal health: Water is one of the good ones. Drinking water keeps your skin hydrated, and it can do the same for your vagina as well. Being well-hydrated improves energy and circulation—it helps increase blood flow, which can make your vagina more sensitive. Also, consider cutting back on or eliminating alcohol, which dehydrates tissues.

Stop Smoking

The OWH noted that smoking can decrease the level of blood flow to the vagina. Also, smoking can further lower estrogen levels—intensifying the impact of age-related drops in the hormone, Dr. Thoppil said.

Overall, if you're experiencing vagina changes that seem worrisome, talk with your healthcare provider to figure out what's going on—this can help them determine the best course of action regarding your concerns.

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