Yes, it’s true — your vagina changes. And no, you aren’t the only one curious about how to tighten vaginal walls. Research shows that tens of thousands of people search for insight into this issue every month. Whether you’ve just given birth or you’re entering menopause, you might have noticed things feel a little different down there. Pregnancy and childbirth, in particular, impact the pelvic floor and the vaginal walls, especially during labor itself. The elasticity of your vaginal walls also becomes looser due to age as estrogen begins to drop during perimenopause. You might notice issues with your bladder and bowel (like needing to go to the bathroom ASAP) or experience painful sexual intercourse since your vaginal walls become drier and less flexible. Understandably, these issues can be pretty frustrating at times. The good news is your vagina can snap back to its previous shape and become “tighter” again.
Below you’ll find tips on what you can do to help tighten your vaginal walls, what you need to know about Kegels, and other answers about your thinning vaginal walls so you can get back to feeling like yourself again.
What is vaginal laxity?
There’s a longstanding myth — and one which historically has been used to shame women for their sexual choices — suggesting having too much sex can lead to a loose vagina. While certain factors can lead to your vagina loosening slightly over time, penetration isn’t one of them. The vagina’s natural elasticity makes it well-equipped to stretch enough to handle things like a penis, a finger, or a sex toy.
Vaginal laxity can be caused by other things, though. Vaginal walls, like the majority of tissues in the human body, rely on a substance called collagen for elasticity and strength. But these vaginal tissues, along with the highly elastic vagina muscles, can sometimes lose their tightness. This is known as vaginal laxity.
According to a 2021 study published in Sexual Medicine, vaginal laxity is “a sensation of looseness which may develop after pregnancy and vaginal delivery and may be affected by prior pelvic surgery, menopause, and aging.” Which is to say that while pregnancy or menopause are both common contributors to vaginal laxity, it can also occur over time due to natural aging or other factors. Symptoms of vaginal laxity may include:
- Decreased sexual satisfaction
- Loss of sensation during sex
- Loss of sexual confidence
- Decreased libido
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal pain or discomfort during sex
- Urinary incontinence
What is vaginal atrophy?
While vaginal laxity can present its own issues, it’s important to note vaginal tightness isn’t always necessarily a good thing. It can even be a sign something is off with your body. Extreme vaginal tightness can signify vaginismus, an involuntary (but treatable) tensing of the vagina. If you have mildly discomforting to downright painful spasms when something is entering your vagina (like a tampon, sex toy, or penis), bring this up with your gynecologist so you can discuss a treatment approach.
A feeling of tightness may also point toward vaginal atrophy. According to the Mayo Clinic, vaginal atrophy is “thinning, drying, and inflammation of the vaginal walls that may occur when your body has less estrogen.” Your vaginal walls mostly feel less flexible and thinner, which can make your vagina seem tighter or smaller to the point of discomfort. Vaginal atrophy occurs most often after menopause, but it is also common in people who have a drop in estrogen due to breastfeeding. Symptoms of vaginal atrophy include:
- Frequent urination
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Painful urination (dysuria)
- Burning during urination
- Dryness of the vagina
- Burning and/or itching of the vagina
- Vulvar itching (pruritus)
- Pain during sex (dyspareunia)
- A feeling of pressure
How can you tighten your pelvic walls?
Like any muscle group, your pelvic floor and vaginal walls need to be exercised frequently and consistently in order to gain strength. Here are some exercises to try (and as with beginning any exercise it’s always a good idea to consult your physician first).
An oldie but a goodie, this exercise helps strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. First, you want to identify your pelvic floor muscles and what it means to contract them. You might want to consult with a trained professional, like a physiotherapist or pilates instructor, for example, beforehand.
- Lie on your back in a comfortable position. You might want to bend your knees and keep your feet on the ground as if you’re preparing for a bridge position.
- Tighten your pelvic floor muscles and breathe in. Hold the contraction for three to five seconds, relaxing and exhaling for another three to five seconds.
- Repeat five more times, building up to 10 times.
- Ideally, you’ll want to practice this exercise at least two to three times a day.
*Keep in mind you’re probably doing your Kegels wrong if you find yourself holding your breath, tensing your neck, holding your stomach, or tensing your thighs or butt. It’s important to contract the muscles in your lower abdomen and make sure you’re breathing properly. Have rest days and give your vagina a break like you would when working out any muscle. If you did Kegels on Monday, make Tuesday a leg day instead.
Squeeze and Release
This exercise is similar to Kegels.
- In the same position as above, you want to squeeze your pelvic floor muscles and quickly release them without holding.
- Rest for three to five seconds and then repeat at least 10 times.
- Practice this exercise at least once more during the day.
This yoga-friendly pose doesn’t just strengthen your buttocks but also your pelvic floor.
- Lie on your back and bend your knees, keeping your feet on the floor with your feet hip-width apart.
- Gently lift your pelvis up towards the ceiling, lifting several inches off the floor, and gently squeezing your buttocks and pelvic floor as you do.
- Hold this position for five to 10 seconds.
- Relax your butt and pelvic floor before lowering your hips down to the floor again.
- Repeat eight to 10 times per set.
- Rest for 60 seconds before performing another two sets.
Other options you may want to discuss with your health care provider include estrogen therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), vaginoplasty, and laser treatment.
Is there such a thing as too many Kegels?
The short answer: yes. But there’s a bit more to it. Performing Kegels is tricky since many of us aren’t familiar with our pelvic floor. Lots of us do it wrong by holding in our breath, tensing our necks, or squeezing our thighs and butt. And because the pelvic floor is just like any other muscle in the body, doing it wrong or overdoing it can cause injury akin to a pulled muscle in your calf. Understanding where and how the pelvic floor works and taking adequate rest will lower the risk of injury.
If you have any questions about performing Kegels or how to locate your pelvic floor correctly, then it’s a good idea to consult with a physiotherapist or gynecologist.
What are other vagina care tips?
A tight vagina is nice, but it's even more important to keep a healthy one.
- Use warm water to clean your vulva, and dry it after a shower before putting on clothes.
- Avoid douching and putting anything into your vagina. Remember, your vagina is self-cleaning.
- Try to wear cotton underwear and avoid wearing tight panties.
- Don't take consistent bubble baths or use bath bombs.
- If you have especially sensitive skin, stay away from strongly scented laundry detergents or dryer sheets. Stick to mild soaps when washing your clothes, especially your undergarments.
- When going to the gynecologist, avoid primping and propping your vagina. A simple shower will do the trick. You want the specialist to see your vagina in its natural state so they can help.
Polland, A., Duong, V., Furuya, R., Fitzgerald, J. J., Wang, H., Iwamoto, A., Bradley, S., & Iglesia, C. B. (2021). Description of vaginal laxity and prolapse and correlation with sexual function (develops). Sexual Medicine, 9(6), 100443. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esxm.2021.100443
Campbell, P., Krychman, M., Gray, T., Vickers, H., Money-Taylor, J., Li, W., & Radley, S. (2018). Self-reported vaginal laxity—prevalence, impact, and associated symptoms in women attending a urogynecology clinic. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 15(11), 1515–1517. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2018.08.015
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