When it comes to the vagina, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions. Some people, for example, believe that vaginas can lose their elasticity and become loose forever. That’s not actually true, though.
Your vagina is elastic. This means it can stretch to accommodate things coming in (think: a penis or sex toy) or going out (think: a baby). But it won’t take long for your vagina to snap back to its previous shape.
Your vagina may become slightly looser as you age or have children, but overall, the muscles expand and retract just like an accordion or a rubber band.
Keep reading to learn more about where this myth comes from, how a “tight” vagina may be a sign of an underlying condition, tips to strengthen your pelvic floor, and more.
First thing’s first: There’s no such thing as a “loose” vagina. Your vagina may change over time due to age and childbirth, but it won’t lose its stretch permanently.
The myth of a “loose” vagina has historically been used as a way to shame women for their sex lives. After all, a “loose” vagina isn’t used to describe a woman who has a lot of sex with her partner. It’s primarily used to describe a woman who has had sex with more than one man.
But the truth is that it doesn’t matter who you have sex with or how often. Penetration won’t cause your vagina to stretch out permanently.
It’s important to know that a “tight” vagina may be a sign of an underlying concern, especially if you’re experiencing discomfort during penetration.
Your vaginal muscles naturally relax when you’re aroused. If you’re not turned on, interested, or physically prepared for intercourse, your vagina won’t relax, self-lubricate, and stretch.
Tight vaginal muscles, then, could make a sexual encounter painful or impossible to complete. Extreme vaginal tightness could also be a sign of vaginismus. This is a treatable physical disorder that affects 1 in every 500 women, according to the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Vaginismus is pain that happens before or during penetration. This could mean sexual intercourse, slipping in a tampon, or inserting a speculum during a pelvic exam.
If this sounds familiar, make an appointment with your OB-GYN. They can assess your symptoms and help make a diagnosis. For vaginismus, your doctor may recommend Kegels and other pelvic floor exercises, vaginal dilator therapy, or Botox injections to relax the muscles.
Only two things can affect your vagina’s elasticity: age and childbirth. Frequent sex — or lack thereof — won’t cause your vagina to lose any of its stretch.
Over time, childbirth and age could potentially cause a slight, natural loosening of your vagina. Women who’ve had more than one vaginal birth are more likely to have weakened vaginal muscles. However, aging can cause your vagina to stretch slightly, regardless of whether you’ve had children.
You may begin to see a change in your vagina’s elasticity starting in your 40s. That’s because your estrogen levels will begin to drop as you enter the perimenopausal stage.
A loss of estrogen means your vaginal tissue will become:
- less acidic
- less stretchy or flexible
These changes may become more noticeable once you reach full menopause.
It’s natural for your vagina to change after a vaginal delivery. After all, your vaginal muscles stretch in order to let your baby pass through the birth canal and out of your vagina’s entrance.
After your baby is born, you may notice that your vagina feels slightly looser than its usual form. That’s completely normal. Your vagina should start to snap back a few days after giving birth, although it may not return to its original shape completely.
If you’ve had multiple childbirths, your vaginal muscles are more likely to lose a little bit of elasticity. If you’re uncomfortable with this, there are exercises you can do to strengthen your vaginal floor muscles before, during, and after pregnancy.
Pelvic exercises are a great way to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are part of your core and help support your:
- small intestine
When your pelvic floor muscles weaken from age or childbirth, you may:
- accidentally leak urine or pass wind
- feel the constant need to pee
- have pain in your pelvic area
- experience pain during sex
Although pelvic floor exercises can help treat mild urinary incontinence, they aren’t as beneficial for women who experience severe urinary leakage. Your doctor can help you develop an appropriate treatment plan that suits your needs.
Interesting in strengthening your pelvic floor? Here are some exercises you can try:
First, you need to identify your pelvic floor muscles. To do so, stop midstream while you’re peeing. If you succeed, you figured out the right muscles.
Once you do, follow these steps:
- Pick a position for your exercises. Most people prefer lying on their back for Kegels.
- Tighten your pelvic floor muscles. Hold the contraction for 5 seconds, relaxing for another 5 seconds.
- Repeat this step at least 5 times in a row.
As you build up strength, increase the time to 10 seconds. Try not to tighten your thighs, abs, or butt during Kegels. Just focus on your pelvic floor.
For the best results, practice 3 sets of Kegels 5 to 10 times a day. You should see results within a few weeks.
Pelvic tilt exercises
To strengthen your vaginal muscles using a pelvic tilt exercise:
- Stand with your shoulders and butt against a wall. Keep both of your knees soft.
- Pull your bellybutton in toward your spine. When you do this, your back should flatten against the wall.
- Tighten your bellybutton for 4 seconds, then release.
- Do this 10 times, for up to 5 times a day.
You can also strengthen your pelvic floor muscles by using a vaginal cone. This is a weighted, tampon-sized object that you put in your vagina and hold.
To do this:
- Insert the lightest cone into your vagina.
- Squeeze your muscles. Hold it in place for about 15 minutes, twice a day.
- Increase the weight of the cone you use as you become more successful in holding the cone in place in your vagina.
Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES)
NMES can help strengthen your vaginal muscles by sending an electric current through your pelvic floor using a probe. The electrical stimulation will cause your pelvic floor muscles to contract and relax.
You can use a home NMES unit or have your doctor perform the treatment. A typical session lasts 20 minutes. You should do this once every four days, for a few weeks.
Remember: A “loose” vagina is a myth. Age and childbirth can cause your vagina to slightly lose some of its elasticity naturally, but your vaginal muscles won’t stretch out permanently. In time, your vagina will snap back to its original form.
If you’re concerned about changes to your vagina, reach out to your doctor to discuss what’s bothering you. They can help ease your concerns and advise you on any next steps.