Your vagina undergoes changes as you age, just like every other parts of your body. Your vulva might lose elasticity, muscle tone and can become reduced, and fluctuating hormone levels can change levels of your natural lubrication.
However, certain habits can cause some of these changes to set in faster. Some of the causes may be unavoidable, but will negatively affect your sexual health. Addressing any changes, however, can make sex feel better, reduce pain caused by irritation, and help prevent urine leaks due to decreased muscle tone.
Here are 5 factors that may threaten to age your vagina early, and what you can do about them.
Lack of exercise will affect your vaginal tone. Prudence Hall, MD, founder and medical director of The Hall Center in Santa Monica, California said a decrease in muscle tone anywhere in your body is a sign of aging. When it happens to your vagina, one major result can be urinary incontinence, when you sneeze or laugh. So exercise regularly to improve vaginal tone.
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Any regular activity like yoga, walking, weights, Pilates, will work the muscles all over your body. Exercise also improves overall circulation, and healthy blood flow to your vagina. Doing kegel exercise will also help.
Arousal helps to power up blood flow to your pelvic area; sex and orgasm gave your vaginal muscles a workout. An occasional dry spell is nothing to worry about. However staying for long periods of time without any action can affect vaginal tone and lubrication.
Using vagina wipes and sprays
There are lots of feminine hygiene products such as vaginal wipes, douches, sprays, creams and others that promises the best. However, your vagina doesn’t need them. This is because using these can even cause harm, possibly thinning and drying out your vaginal lining the way menopause does naturally, making you susceptible to infection.
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So unless your doctor recommends a specific product, skip them and practice a few simple moves when it comes to taking care of your vagina. That includes using only mild soap and water to cleanse your vulva, getting tested for STDs regularly if you are not monogamous, and using condoms.
Delivering a baby
Your vagina has to stretch several times over during child delivery, causing you to lose muscle tone. This can lead to urinary incontinence and affect sex. The vaginal canal may feel a bit wider and looser, making sexual encounter less enjoyable for you and your partner.
“Many women will need to rehab these muscles after pregnancy,” says Dr. Hall. Kegel exercises are one strategy; clenching the muscles that control the flow of urine can improve vaginal tone. Glute lifts and planks can also help.
“When you do a plank you’re also squeezing your vagina,” she says. Or do sets of this specific vagina-toning exercise: Stand with one hand holding onto a desk and kick one leg back. As you squeeze your butt, you’ll also squeeze your vagina.
Taking certain medications
Certain over-the-counter drugs that address allergy symptoms and congestion work well by drying out your sinuses. Yet they also dry out your vagina in the process, notes Dr. Hall. Vaginal dryness is something many women experience as they enter perimenopause and then menopause, as estrogen production naturally drops.
Long-term use of steroid medications will also thin the skin of your vagina, which naturally happens during menopause as well. Thinner vaginal skin, however, can make you more prone to irritation. If medications are drying or thinning your vagina, consult your doctor to come up with a plan to best address your symptoms.