Just like any other part of your body, your vagina and your vulva* constantly change as you age. Becoming aware of these changes will allow you to view them as normal, and prepare you to deal with them. Many potential problems can be prevented by simply changing our expectations or making adjustments that will help with the aging process.
Although no two bodies are the same, here are some general vaginal changes that usually occur through the decades. Remember, these changes might not happen to you in the exact way described, but it should give you an idea of where you are headed.
*Most people confuse the terms vagina and vulva. The vagina is the muscular canal that connects the uterus to the vaginal opening. The vulva is the external portion of the female genitals. It includes the inner and outer lips (labia majora and labia minora) and the clitoris. The use of the term “vagina” in its familiar expression, referring to the vaginal area, composed of both the vulva and the vagina, is used in this article.
Your Sexual Organs in Your 20s
Known as the peak fertility years, this is the time when most women will discover—and experiment with—their sexuality. Because your hormonal levels are at their highest, your vaginal area should be at its best: toned, healthy, and well-lubricated. Remember, however, that young and healthy doesn’t exempt you from potential health risks. Regular physical examination from a medical practitioner is recommended at every age.
Your twenties also come with their share of difficulties. Factors such as lack of self-confidence, sexual inhibitions, or difficulty with intimate sexual communication, can cause sexual issues such as vaginal dryness during intercourse, difficulty with having an orgasm, or pain and discomfort during sex. Luckily, for most, these issues are resolved over time. Sexual therapy is also a great way to learn about yourself and the ways of communicating your needs and desires.
Changes in Your 30s
By your mid-thirties, your hormones should start to shift so your body can get ready for the perimenopausal phase expected in your 40s. Your fertility level has also dropped (approximately by 50%), and, if you have had one or several pregnancies, by now your vaginal area has also gone through significant changes.
Vaginal Changes Due to Pregnancy and Childbirth
No one will deny that childbirth is a life-altering experience. However, that 7-pound bundle of joy will do more than just change your sleep schedule. Many women experience significant physical changes following pregnancy.
Some of the most common vaginal changes are:
- Stretching of vaginal skin and muscle tissues
- Vulvar varicose veins
- Vaginal dryness
- Urinary incontinence
- Bladder or uterine prolapse (organs “drop” into the vaginal wall)
The Transitional 40s
Perimenopause takes place over several years and generally starts in the mid-forties. Perimenopause is the body’s way to gradually prepare for menopause and the ending to menstrual periods. Most of the symptoms caused by perimenopause are due to drastic changes in hormone production. Symptoms of perimenopause can include:
- Changes in your menstrual cycle
- Anxiety, stress
- Lower self-confidence
- Decrease in libido
In the vaginal area, you may notice:
- Vaginal dryness
- Urinary incontinence, leakage
- Vaginal pain
- Less pubic hair
Through Your 50s and Beyond
Most women reach menopause in their 50s. Menopause is described as the end of the menstrual cycle, and with it, several other factors occur.
Note that some of these factors can occur earlier in life, during perimenopause, but also during pregnancy, as a natural part of your body’s development, or following a medical intervention such as a hysterectomy.
Decrease in Estrogen Production
During menopause, estrogen production slows and then stops. This causes a decrease in natural vaginal lubrication, and vaginal atrophy (little or no vaginal lubrication). As estrogen levels decrease, the vaginal pH increases and becomes less acidic. This might seem irrelevant, but it isn’t. This disruption in the vaginal “ecosystem” results in a decrease of good bacteria and an overgrowth of the bad bacteria that cause irritation and even infection. Recent scientific evidence shows the correlation between lower estrogen production during menopause and chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs). This condition is medically known as “genitourinary syndrome of menopause”.
Decrease in Collagen Production
As the rest of the body’s skin, with age, vaginal skin will produce less collagen. As a matter of fact, as of the age of 20, the body’s collagen production reduces by about 1% each year. Collagen attributes the elasticity and strength of the tissues in and around the vaginal area. With this significant reduction of collagen, vaginal skin becomes thinner and more fragile. The loss of tone and skin firmness caused by lower levels of collagen, can result in a loss of sensation and difficulty reaching orgasm. For some couples, the symptom of loss of sensation affects the male partner as well, since there is a decrease in vaginal pressure during intercourse.
Weakening of Pelvic Muscles
Pelvic floor muscles provide support to organs such as the bladder, bowel, and uterus for women. Like any other muscle in the body, with age, they can lose their tone and become weak.
Weak pelvic floor muscles can cause serious health problems and sexual dysfunctions.
So What’s the Bottom Line?
Like the rest of your body, your sexual organs will undergo significant changes as you age. However, don’t despair! Science has come a long way! Many of the symptoms described above can be drastically reduced or even eliminated by Vaginal Rejuvenation Treatments.
The Elna Sexual Wellness centre brings together a team of specialized professionals dedicated to your sexual health. We offer the latest therapeutic treatments and technology that can help alleviate the symptoms related to vaginal dryness, stress urinary incontinence, the loss of elasticity in of the vaginal skin, and other sexual dysfunctions such as difficulty reaching orgasm and pain or discomfort during sex.
Our treatments are non-invasive and performed at our Montreal clinic.
Feel good about your sexual health. Find-out if Vaginal Rejuvenation is right for you. Contact us today.