You’d think that after all the chaos that occurs during puberty, your reproductive system would have some time to relax. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. As you get older, your vagina experiences the effects of aging as well, just like the rest of your body. First, let’s clear the air about the terminology. ‘Vagina’ is the term for the internal canal and opening. What we normally refer to as the vagina, which includes the labia, the clitoris, and the urethra, is actually called the vulva.
Here are some ways in which your vulva can change as you get older.
As early as your 20s, birth control pills can cause dryness. Reduced lubrication can lead to irritation, itchiness and painful sex but these are easily countered with manufactured lubricants. It’s better to use neutral options with no extra flavors or sensory effects like warming or tingling. These chemicals may irritate the sensitive skin down there.
Between the 20s and 30s is when most women decide to get pregnant. This drastic bodily change brings along a host of hormonal issues. You shouldn’t be surprised if the skin on your vulva seems to darken quite a bit. This discoloration is also common during menopause. Usually, this is a result of several factors put together but years of hair removal practices can emphasize the effects. So if you shave or wax often, be prepared for darker skin in your nether regions as you get older.
3. Varicose Veins
The pressure put on your labia because of pregnancy and labor can cause varicose veins. These are veins that become enlarged and twisted due to a lack of proper circulation. They don’t normally cause any pain or discomfort. But they do cause a significant amount of discoloration as well.
4. Muscle Damage
It’s not uncommon to experience some amount of muscle and nerve damage in your vulva due to the weight of the uterus bearing down on it. Fortunately, these effects are completely reversed a few weeks after pregnancy. The vagina returns back to the original condition it was in before pregnancy.
5. Hair Thinning
As you approach menopause, the drop in levels of estrogen can cause pubic hair to start graying and thinning down. This spells great news since you won’t have to shave as much. However, you might start to sprout hair in other undesirable places such as your face.
The vagina is one place where you want to see wrinkles and folds. The wrinkles are a sign that the skin is sufficiently moisturized. However, as you age, you tend to lose fat and collagen in this area. As a result, the skin on your vulva tends to get drier and less elastic. In fact, it can make the whole area appear to shrink as your skin tends to look stretched out.
It’s commonly known that the vagina tends to lose elasticity as you get older. Unfortunately, this loss of elasticity can make the vagina prone to small tears, especially during sex. This can increase your chances of getting infections.
8. Changes In pH
You may have heard that the vagina has its own delicate pH level to maintain. As you age, the vagina gets more acidic and make you more vulnerable to infections. Using scented soaps or feminine hygiene products can throw things out of balance even more, so replace them with a clean, gentle washcloth and lukewarm water. Believe it or not, that’s all you need!
9. Changes In Libido
Some women experience a reduction in sex drive, but this may not always be biological. Sex can become painful due to reduced lubrication. Since most women come to expect the pain, they tend to tense up their pelvic muscles which only makes things worse. Here’s how you can make sex enjoyable again.
- Regular exercise and pelvic floor stretches can help you loosen your pelvic muscles and relieve tension.
- To counter dryness, drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.
- You can also include some amount of healthy fats into your diet to help promote lubrication.
- Include enough foreplay in your sessions to make sure you are well aroused.
- If you have the opportunity, it is definitely more beneficial to keep having regular sex since this can help prevent the drying and thinning of the vaginal walls. If you don’t, going solo can do the trick as well.
An extreme loss of elasticity results in a condition called prolapse and it affects about 30-40% of women in varying severity. In this case, the muscles and ligaments holding the uterus in place can weaken and cause it to sag into the birth canal. In mild cases, women might not experience symptoms. But in more severe cases the uterus may travel so far as to drop outside the vagina. Fortunately, you can avoid this problem by doing Kegel exercises, getting regular physical activity and taking estrogen replacement therapy during menopause.1
All these changes are completely natural and usually not harmful. But, if they cause you discomfort in any way, consult your gynecologist to find remedies for these changes. Do whatever makes you feel more comfortable in your body.