Let’s be honest, over the years, our bodies (and faces and hair!) change. Let’s be even more honest and acknowledge that the vagina is included in all that changing. If you’ve recently given birth or are entering menopause, it’s pretty common for there to be some, well, upheaval down under.
The pelvic floor and the vaginal walls are impacted by both pregnancy and the actual childbirth process. Additionally, during perimenopause, estrogen levels start to drop and the vaginal walls can become drier and less flexible as their elasticity weakens. This can result in pain and discomfort during sexual intercourse or the use of penetrative adult sex toys. Changes can also lead to as well as possible bladder and bowel issues.
These changes can be uncomfortable, and they do, in fact, leave lots of folks looking for advice about vaginal tightening. In fact, available data shows that this topic is searched by thousands of internet users each and every month. Good thing we’re talking about it, right?!
If you are frustrated by changes to your vagina and wondering if there is anything that can be done, keep reading. I’ve got all the info you need to understand vaginal laxity and vaginal atrophy (the two big culprits behind vaginal changes). We’ll also go over tips on how to keep your vagina toned and healthy!
What is vaginal laxity?
In 2021, Sexual Medicine published a story that defined vaginal laxity as “a sensation of looseness which may develop after pregnancy and vaginal delivery and may be affected by prior pelvic surgery, menopause, and aging.” This means that while many folks experience vaginal laxity as the result of childbirth or menopause, there are other factors that can bring it on, including the totally natural aging process.
Contrary to what misogynistic and/or judgmental folks often want you to believe, vaginal laxity is not brought on by having a lot of sex or by having multiple partners. This myth has been around for a long, long time and is very popular among folks who want to shame women for having sex, especially with multiple partners. Typically, I try to steer clear of such gendered language, but this particular myth is largely rooted in misogyny and general dislike of women, so it feels appropriate here. Did you ever notice that “sex makes you loose” tends to get carted out to critique women who have sex with multiple partners but not women who have repeated sex with one partner?
Here’s the deal, there are several things that can lead to vaginal laxity, but in general, the vagina’s naturally elastic nature means that penetration is not one of those things. The vagina is ready and able to accommodate sex toys, fingers, and penises without permanent damage. On that note, if you’ve ever wondered “how deep is a woman's vagina?” we’ve got answers.
As for the other things that can cause vaginal laxity, it’s important to remember that the vagina has a lot in common with the other tissues of the human body, including the way it relies on collagen to maintain strength and elasticity. As we age, the body produces less collagen, and this can be another factor that contributes to vaginal laxity.
Vaginal laxity symptoms may include:
- Urinary incontinence
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal pain or discomfort during sex
- Loss of sensation during sex
- Decreased sexual satisfaction
- Decreased libido (understandable, what with all the discomfort, lack of sensation, and dissatisfaction!)
What is vaginal atrophy?
So, if vaginal laxity involves a sensation of “looseness” in the vagina and that comes with negative symptoms, then something that makes the vagina feel tighter would be positive, right? Not so fast! While vaginal laxity comes with a bunch of issues, we need to remember that vaginal tightness is not necessarily good either. In fact, sometimes it is the result of a condition that can cause you pain and interfere with your day-to-day life, so let’s talk about that too!
Extreme vaginal tightness can be the result of vaginismus. Vaginismus is an involuntary and often painful tensing that specifically occurs when something is entering the vagina like a tampon, a sex toy, fingers, or a penis. While vaginismus can be very unpleasant, it is totally treatable so if you are experiencing it, talk to your gynecologist. Bring this up with your gynecologist so you can discuss a treatment approach.
A new sensation of vaginal tightness might also be a sign of vaginal atrophy. Vaginal atrophy is inflammation, drying, and thinning of the vaginal walls that can happen when estrogen production decreases.The vagina might feel smaller and tighter, often uncomfortably so, because the vaginal walls have become less flexible. Typically, vaginal atrophy occurs after menopause, but it can happen any time there is a substantial drop in estrogen, such as when one is breastfeeding. It might help to read up about what causes vaginal dryness and other symptoms of vaginal atrophy.
Vaginal atrophy symptoms may include:
- Pain during sex
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal itching and burning
- Vulvar itching
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
- Burning during urination
- A feeling of pressure in the vagina
How do you strengthen vaginal walls?
Okay, so now that we know about all these things that can come with weakened vaginal walls, what can we do about it?
First off, you can talk to a healthcare provider. If necessary, they can help you investigate options like estrogen therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), vaginoplasty, and laser treatment. Secondly, take good care of yourself! Eating a well-balanced diet and staying hydrated can contribute to your vaginal health.
The other big thing you can do? Let’s talk about pelvic floor exercises that can help strengthen the vaginal walls!
Can exercise tighten vaginal walls?
That’s a big question, and the answer is “yes!” The pelvic floor and vaginal walls are like any other muscle group in your body; they can be strengthened with regular exercise, which can include sex and foreplay. Brush up on how to foreplay, and how long should foreplay last, if you’re interested in this very enjoyable type of vaginal workout.
Here are some of the best exercises you can do for your vaginal health.
The vaginal health kegels are excellent for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. Here’s how you do them:
1. First, locate the pelvic floor muscles! You can do this either by inserting a finger into the vagina and squeezing around it or by attempting to stop the flow while you are urinating.
2. Now that you know where the muscles are, try contracting them for anywhere from five to ten seconds. Relax between contractions. Try to do between ten and twenty contractions per session. TIP: If you cannot yet maintain the contraction for 5 seconds, see how long you can hold it for, and then work your way up from there.
3. Repeat this process two to three times daily
4. If you want to take it to the next level, look into kegel weights or ben wa balls.
When you do kegel exercises make sure to breathe normally; resist the urge to hold your breath. Also, be careful to stick with the kegel muscles as sometimes the muscles of the butt, legs, and abdomen try to jump in too, and that makes your exercises less successful.
Squeeze and Release
Very similar to kegels, Squeeze and Release engages the same muscles but doesn’t hold the squeeze. This is helpful for building the connection between your brain and your muscles and developing some of that muscle memory that helps you engage the right muscles.
1. Engage every pelvic floor muscle you can and quickly release them without holding.
2. Rest for three to five seconds, and then repeat at least 10 times.
3. Practice this exercise at least once more during the day.
Just like with kegels, be sure not to hold your breath and to really isolate the pelvic floor muscles. If you feel the legs, abs, or butt-kicking in, take a break.
If you’ve been to a yoga class, you’ll probably be familiar with this one!
1. Lie on your back with the knees bent and feet hip-width apart on the floor.
2. Lift your pelvis up towards the ceiling several inches off the floor while contracting the buttocks and pelvic floor muscle.
3. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.
4. Relax the vaginal muscles and lower your hips down to the floor.
5. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
6. Rest for 60 seconds before performing another two sets of 8 to 10 lifts.
Resist the urge to press down with your feet to lift the hips.
This one is simple but effective!
1. Stand with your shoulders and butt against a wall, and your knees softly bent.
2. Pull your belly button in towards your spine, so your lower back flattens against the wall.
3. Hold the contraction for four seconds, then release
4. Rest for three to five seconds, and then repeat at least 10 times.
It can help to visualize the tailbone curling under as you pull the belly button in.
If you have any questions about locating the pelvic floor or exercising it correctly, consult with a gynecologist. To learn more about vaginal health, including how to make your vagina smell good, have a look at our related articles.
If you are curious about vaginal tightening and strengthening, you might consider an adult sex toy or kegel weights. Check out PinkCherry’s huge selection with everything you need to explore your pelvic potential!