Age changes everything, including your vagina too. The changes in pelvic floor strength and vulvar skin thickness don’t happen suddenly, you just might be able to be more prepared for those changes.
We consulted women’s health experts and trusted resources to tell you how your vagina changes during the course of your lifetime and what you can do to keep it in good shape. A women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP), Kara Earthman made some important input to this topic.
For Women in 20s
During your 20s, factors like sex, pregnancy, contraception use, and birth can impact your vagina. More people are waiting until their 30s to have a child. However, your 20s may be the best time to conceive your child based on optimal fertility and general health.
According to Earthman, “The color of the vulvar skin will vary based on your unique genetics, but generally skin will be lighter in this decade than in later decades,” says Earthman. “The skin will likely not be as thick as it was in teenage years, so it may appear thinner than you remember in high school.”
Pubic hair, however, doesn’t thin. On the contrary, she says that it’s fully developed during your 20s. But of course, what you actually have down there is totally up to you.
Before childbirth, the pelvic floor is at its prime. Earthman explains: “Women in their 20s have little or no problems with weak muscles for the most part.”
Sex in 20s
According to Earthman, your vagina doesn’t struggle with natural lubrication during your 20s. “The only thing that may impact this is if you’re on birth control pills, which can decrease vaginal lubrication.” She adds that sexual libido are typically at their peak now.
If you’ve noticed a decrease in lubrication since using birth control pills, contact your doctor. To protect yourself from STDs, keep in mind that coconut oil isn’t recommended to be used with condoms. If your partner uses a condom, you should also avoid petroleum-based lubricants. They’re known to damage condoms and prevent them from working accurately.
Caring for your Vagina in 20s
It’s common to feel pressure to do something to improve the appearance of your vagina. Earthman says: “Your vagina is not meant to smell like a flower bouquet.” Instead of choosing artificially-fragranced products, she advises cleaning your vagina with warm water and unscented soap on a daily basis.
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For Women in 30s: Do more Kegels
At this age, your vagina is still physically fit for having babies. However, it’s also possible to start experiencing perimenopause, the time leading up to menopause, in your 30s.
According to Earthman;
“Pigmentation of the vulva may change after childbirth or with age, generally getting slightly darker,” says Earthman. “Pubic hair and skin elasticity are generally the same in this decade as they were in the 20s, though skin may lose some elasticity with age.”
One of the most distinguished vaginal changes at this age is a decrease in pelvic floor strength. Since the pelvic muscles support the bladder, uterus, and bowel, a myriad of issues like urinary incontinence, a feeling of vaginal heaviness, and even prolapse (when the uterus, bladder, or bowel slips out of place) can occur when pelvic floor strength is lost with age. Vaginal birth can worsen these symptoms. Earthman adds that if you give birth vaginally in your 30s, your vagina may take a little longer to heal than in your 20s.
Sex in your 30s
There’s not much of a difference between sexual libido and stamina levels in your 20s and 30s. However, they may become a bit low. “Libido can be tied to life circumstances, which may be more pressing in your 30s when you might be dealing with a mortgage, kids, and career,” Earthman said.
For pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, Earthman notes that the body may also enter a temporary menopause-like state, causing sore physical symptoms like vaginal dryness, which can lead to painful intercourse.
A lubricant or vaginal moisturizer like can help with vaginal dryness or discomfort during sexual activity.
Taking care of yourself in 30s
At this stage, you need to increase your pelvic floor exercise or kegels, says Earthmam.
“Kegels and pelvic floor physical treatment before and after vaginal deliveries can train your pelvic floor muscles to contract and release more effectively, which prevents damage during delivery, assists in retraining your muscles post-birth, and decreases the chance of bladder and bowel issues, pressure, and prolapse.”
For Women in 40s: The ideal time for more sex
Perimenopause occurs when your estrogen levels decreases slowly. As a result, life-changing symptoms such as irregular menstrual cycles, vaginal dryness and hot flashes can occur and change your vagina. Though menopause may be impending, some women still give birth during this time. Essentially, your 40s can be marked by fertility and the end of fertility.
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Candice Vaden, WHNP says;
“Decreases in estrogen lead to decreased blood supply to the vagina and vulva, less collagen in the vulvar tissue, and changes in vaginal pH, to name a few,” says Vaden. “A woman may notice that her pubic hair is thinning, her vulva and vagina have become drier, and that her labia [appear looser] due to less fat content.” She emphasizes that these perimenopausal symptoms are very individualized — some women barely notice them while others experience them in a more pronounced manner.
Vaden says that along with previous vaginal deliveries, body weight can also impact pelvic floor strength. “Pregnancy and vaginal delivery place great strain on the pelvic floor, while increased abdominal weight also puts pressure on it.”
If you do become pregnant in your 40s, Vaden adds that the vagina may take longer to heal after a vaginal delivery than before.
Sex in 40s
Here’s where two common perimenopause symptoms may affect your sex life: a decrease in vaginal lubrication, particularly during sexual arousal, and general vaginal dryness. Beyond using a lubricant to address dryness, Vaden suggests allowing plenty of time for foreplay before intercourse. If vaginal dryness continues, doctors can prescribe a low-dose topical estrogen cream.
Physically, your body may not be the same as it was when you were in your 20s. In other words, it’s totally normal for sex to be accompanied by a few joint cracks. “Women in their 40s may find that aging joints and muscles are not cooperating for certain positions,” says Vaden.
Caring for yourself in 40s
Mood changes, sleep disturbances, hot flashes and other hormonal symptoms can negatively impact your eagerness for sex.
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“As women age and estrogen levels decrease, the vagina can become less elastic, shorter, and more narrow, which in turn makes intercourse uncomfortable. This is why continuing sexual activity can help prevent changes in the size and shape of the vagina,” Vaden says.
The skin of the vulva is also likely starting to thin during this time, so watch out for harsh scrubs and be cautious with waxing, which can damage the skin. “Declining hormone levels also change the pH of the vagina, so the amount of healthy vaginal flora decreases,” says Vaden. “This sets women up to be more prone to vaginal infections and vulvar skin infections, which a probiotic supplement for vaginal health can help offset.”
For Women in 50s
“Most women are either postmenopausal or are beginning to experience menopausal changes at the age,” says Dr. Erin Fagot, a doctorally-prepared WHNP. “The average age of menopause in the United States is 51.”
“Menopausal changes include pubic hair becoming sparse and gray,” she says. “The vulva, vagina, and cervix can also become smaller in size, more pale in color, and the skin can become thinner due to estrogen levels continuing to decrease.”
Though it’s rare for a woman to become pregnant or give birth in their 50s, they may still cope with the physical effect of pregnancy and labor. “Sometimes, the bladder, uterus, or bowel can prolapse or slip out of place during this time,” says Fagot. “If this occurs, women can have changes in bladder or bowel function, or a feeling of vaginal pressure.”
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Medications like pessaries, vaginal estrogen, physical therapy, and surgery are options for prolapse treatment
Sex in 50s
As estrogen levels continue to slowly drop in your 50s, you may notice even less vaginal lubrication. Over time, Fagot says the internal vaginal tissues can tear with penetration because they’ve become so thin, fragile, and poorly lubricated, which often causes vaginal pain and bleeding with sexual contact. “But as women progress through menopause, these symptoms tend to plateau and then cease,” she says.
Experiencing these disconcerting (though natural) physical changes and painful intercourse can absolutely influence your interest in getting frisky. If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness or discomfort during sex, Fagot suggests taking it slow, ramping up the foreplay even more, and continuing to rely on a lubricant.
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Plus, intimacy doesn’t always have to mean intercourse. Oral sex, masturbation, rubbing the genitals together, or introducing a vibrator or sex toy into the bedroom can be just as enjoyable.
Caring for Self in 50s
During menopause, Fagot says that estrogen levels drop to the point where they often cause an increase in Urinary tract infections for some women. UTIs need to be treated with an antibiotic prescription, which you can get by visiting your doctor or an urgent care clinic.
Like Earthman, Fagot stresses the importance of communication. “The first step in abating these symptoms is to talk with your partner,” she says. “Let them know how you are feeling, inform them of these changes, and that they are a normal part of the aging process.”