As if childhood, puberty, and adolescence weren’t enough, the vagina, and the surrounding area, change as you age. Sadly, these changes aren’t the most-discussed topics, meaning that women may be unprepared for the realities of aging lady flowers. We want you to be prepared for the effects Father Time has on the body, even the vulva and vagina.
During your late 20s and 30s, progesterone and estrogen course through your system. Higher estrogen levels can cause vaginal changes like more discharge. It’s also more common for the first pregnancy to take place between the 20s and 30s, which can affect how the vagina looks and feels. Estrogen levels can fluctuate after pregnancy and during breastfeeding, leading to uncomfortable vaginal dryness. These estrogen changes are typically temporary, but they can cause unfamiliar changes to the vagina. Read on to learn about the other ways the vagina can change as you age.
The Vulva Changes
It’s important to note that, while closely connected, the vagina and vulva are two different things. The vulva is the outside, and the vagina is the canal. The reason for this clarification is because women often talk about their vagina, when in reality they mean their vulva, the lips, labia majora, labia minora, urethra, or clitoris. The vulva doesn’t really change from your late teens to your 40s, and even into your 50s. At some point, women can experience vulvovaginal atrophy (VVA) that results from the gradual loss of estrogen that comes with perimenopause and menopause. The tissue can become paler and smoother, while the labia can become less distinct. This natural process is nothing to freak out about, though.
You May Experience Vaginal Dryness
A healthy vagina is well-lubricated, but you may develop vaginal dryness as you age. As estrogen levels decline, the vagina can become dryer because estrogen helps maintain moisture in the vaginal lining. When levels are low, the vagina walls become thinner and dryer, according to health professionals. During your lifetime, there are three main hormonal assaults on the body that cause estrogen levels to fall: breastfeeding, perimenopause, and menopause. In those periods when vaginal tissues lack lubrication, it’s possible to experience discomfort in the vagina, soreness in the vulva, burning or itching, bleeding after sex due to tears in vaginal walls, needing to pee more often, and not wanting to have sex.
The Hair May Change Down There
The graying and thinning of hair down in the vaginal region is quite common as you age. What you may not know is that it’s common to lose hair. According to experts, just like any other hair on the body, pubic hair starts to thin out and disappear during and after different hormonal stages in life. During menopause, the hair may grow slower and will be less thick. Medical conditions and the use of certain medications, both of which come with age, can thin out pubic hair. The new appearance may take some time to get used to, but you may find that it’s more convenient to have fewer hairs down there.
The Vagina Itself Can Change
While VVA affects the vulva, it can also affect the vagina. The loss of estrogen can dramatically change the appearance and function of the vagina. It’s very possible for the vaginal opening to shrink, and so can the length of the vaginal canal. Additionally, you may also experience frequent irritation, which results from the thinning of vaginal walls. According to surveys, about 20-50% of women start to notice changes, especially during sex because it can be more painful. Sex itself isn’t the main culprit of itchiness, though. Some women experience itchiness when walking or doing exercise. Fortunately, there are many moisturizers and lubricants that can provide temporary relief for that discomfort.
You May Develop Varicose Veins
Those bigger, bluish veins that tend to crop up in the legs as you age can also occur near the vulvar region. Although varicose veins mainly occur in the feet and legs, they can also surface near the vulva. Prominent veins can pop up during pregnancy because of the boost in blood flow to the pelvic area. That causes the veins to bulge, according to health experts. Other risk factors for vulvar varicosities include standing for long periods of time and obesity, both of which increase pressure on the veins in the lower body.
You May Be More Prone To Vaginal Infections
The vagina is normally acidic, which is the right pH balance for the protective organisms that live in harmony down there. Anything that disrupts that delicate balance can increase the risk of vaginal infection. As we’ve covered in this article, change is inevitable with age. That means that the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, postpartum, perimenopause, and menopause can disturb the vagina’s microbiome. This disturbance can lead to vaginal yeast and bacterial infections.