As you age, everything changes. Just like your hair turns grey and skin turns saggy, your vagina is no different. While normal changes in your pelvic floor strength don’t happen overnight, being aware of when and what goes down could help you be more ready for those changes. In other words, as you age, your hormones change and affect the way your vagina feels and functions, even during sex.
Healthydailytips reached out to Dr Chetna Jain, Director of the department of OBG gynaecology at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Sector-14 Gurugram, Haryana, to understand more about how the vaginal and vulva changes as a woman ages.
Understanding the vagina at a young age
Of course, the vagina changes with age. When a baby is born, it has a small vagina which is under the influence of maternal hormones. However, these hormones fade away within days and newborns even show some vaginal spotting, says Dr Jain.
The female body has low levels of oestrogen and progesterone before puberty. As oestrogen and progesterone start coming in, the vagina along with the rest of the genital organs grow to attain adult size usually by the age of 18. It becomes wider, deeper, rugose, and moist. That is why younger women find a lot of transparent watery mucoid discharge coming from the vagina. These features allow smooth and comfortable sexual activity. The vagina remains in this state till the age of 40 for most, she adds.
Also Read: Prioritise menstrual hygiene: A gynaecologist tells you why
Vaginal changes after pregnancy
The vagina stretches immensely and loses its tone and becomes wider during childbirth. However, it recoils back to the pre-pregnancy state with the passage of time and exercise. In some cases, it can lead to sexual dissatisfaction. Some women even notice bulging in the front, back, or sides of the vagina. This happens due to the laxity of pelvic muscles, which develop after childbirth. This pelvic organ prolapse can be noticed after menopause, explains Dr Jain.
Also Read: An ob-gyn reveals 5 ways your vagina changes post-pregnancy
How menopause affects your vagina?
The average age of menopause for women in India is around 51. After 40 yrs, the oestrogen and progesterone start declining and reduce to very low levels by menopause. This leads to the vagina shrinking in length and width, the rugosities of the vagina are lost and the vagina becomes smooth. The entry point of the vagina becomes narrow. Natural lubrication is lost, which happens again under the effect of low oestrogen levels. All this contributes to difficulty in intercourse unless the sexual activity is maintained, elucidates the expert.
How to maintain vaginal health?
There are certain practices that need to be maintained for the sake of your vaginal health, as per the doctor:
- Never do douching, which involves washing out the inside of the water.
- Do not allow saliva to come into contact with the genitals.
- Do not participate in sexual activity with unwashed hands.
- Use condoms if you do not plan on getting pregnant anytime soon. It not only prevents sexually transmitted infections, but it also prevents vaginal infections.
- Don’t use soaps to wash the vulva. The vagina doesn’t need any kind of washing. it’s in auto-clean mode.
- Women facing vaginal dryness can use certain lubricants. Two kinds of lubricants are available. Water-based lubricants do not clump sperms and hence do not interfere with reproduction. They are safe to be used with condoms.
- For good genital health the private parts should be exposed to air and light, use of soap is best avoided or minimised.
- The best way to clean the vulva is by washing it with warm water.
- Yoghurt and diluted vinegar also make good hygiene wash.
- Some postmenopausal women will benefit from oestrogen-containing creams. They could be dangerous and can only be used under medical supervision.
- Good care of the vulva and vagina will prevent infections and help in maintaining coastal activity for a long.
- Bikini wax done by professionals can transmit HPV infection and should be done carefully. Trimming is the best procedure to get rid of genital hair. Laser is safe.
Take care of your vaginal health to avoid vaginal infections and complications. Don’t forget to consult a doctor before trying any of the advises mentioned above.