Your vagina age-by-age: What you need to know
"As women age, their sexual health changes as well," reports Dr. Madeline Castillanos, who works as both a medical doctor and psychotherapist. Here's what she says all women need to know about their female anatomy throughout the lifespan.
Sitting pretty in your 20s
When you're in your 20s, your hormones still pump at a tremendous rate, which should keep your vagina healthy and toned. "Estrogen and testosterone work to keep the tissues of the vagina plump and well-lubricated," reports Castillanos. Although young women can expect healthy vaginas, she cautions that they need to visit their gynecologist regularly for Pap smears to detect changes to the cervix, since cervical cancer is a risk for young women.
Childbearing in your 30s
Things start to change a little bit when women have children (which can obviously occur in their 20s, but we're sticking with the 30s for the sake of simplicity). Hormones go berserk with childbirth, and the pelvic floor is also stretched and traumatized by carrying a baby. "After childbirth and with the loss of estrogen, the muscles of the pelvic floor can become weak," says Castillanos. "This can significantly decrease the intensity of a woman's orgasm and contribute to urinary incontinence."
Castillanos stresses that after a woman gives birth, her primary focus needs to be on pelvic floor strengthening. "I recommend the Intensity device to automatically provide a gentle, rhythmic electrical stimulation to the pelvic floor and vagina for strengthening," she says.
Hormonal changes in your 40s
By the time women reach their 40s, they usually encounter hormonal changes due to perimenopause or menopause, either as a result of normal aging or surgeries like hysterectomies. Castillanos explains, "Hormones fluctuate and eventually decrease, which can seriously impact a woman's sex life. Many women end up having sex less often, but it has been shown that women who continue to have sexual activity once a week have less sexual dysfunction than those who don't."
According to Castillanos, sexual dysfunction can include vaginal dryness and decreased arousal. Women can address these problems by doing pelvic floor exercises and using a daily vaginal moisturizer and silicone-based lubricant during sex, as well as ditching the soap and cleansing with a product like Vagisil Moisturizing Wash.
Changing sexuality in your 50s
During a woman's 50s, hormone levels continue to drop, and contribute to increased vaginal dryness and even vaginal atrophy. The drop in estrogen and testosterone weakens the walls of the vagina and can even make the tissue feel thin and dry. Women in their 50s often complain that sex is painful as a result of the changes in the vaginal walls.
"Women need to stay well-hydrated," says Castillanos, "and stay on the lookout for any medications that contribute to dehydration, like allergy medicines." She adds that it's important to continue using a vaginal moisturizer and lubricant to avoid discomfort, and to ask for help from a doctor if sex becomes painful.
Embracing sexual health in your 60s
Ultimately, sexual health is tied to a woman's overall health, particularly as she ages. "Any difficulties that women have are dependent on their overall health and nutrition, their activity level and their hormone levels," Castillanos says. "Some women can maintain their sexual functioning relatively unchanged much longer than others."
Women in their later years need to stay on top of their hormone treatments to prevent and treat vaginal atrophy, dryness and pain. Pelvic floor exercises also remain extremely important for increased sexual sensation and urinary incontinence. Castillanos concludes that women in their 60s and beyond can look forward to a healthy sex life, as long as they take care of their vaginal and overall health.
Tip: Gynecologists really have seen and heard it all. Don't be embarrassed to speak up if you have questions about your vaginal health.
This post was sponsored by Vagisil.