What is a vagina?
To be able to understand whether sexual activity – or other factors – can impact the elasticity and tightness of the vagina, first and foremost, it is important to understand what it is and isn’t. The word vagina is often used as a blanket term for female genitalia whereas it forms just a small part of it.
The vagina is a muscular canal that connects the vulva – the outside portion of the female genitals comprising the clitoris, labia (lip around the vaginal opening) and the perineum – to the cervix (or the neck of the uterus). This tube-like structure is extremely elastic, and thus capable of expanding and contracting, as need be.
What makes the vagina elastic and why?
The musculature of the vagina is designed to expand to facilitate penile penetration and childbirth. It is an evolutionary function that supports procreation. This elasticity is also what makes it possible for women to use tampons, menstrual cups, sex toys.
During sexual activity, the vagina can expand anywhere between half-an-inch to two inches in width. This change is prompted by female arousal. The increased blood flow causes the rugae (inner vaginal walls) to become lubricated and loosen up to accommodate the penis. Once the penetration has taken place, the walls tighten up again for enhanced sexual pleasure.
Since these muscles take time to relax and expand, prolonged foreplay is recommended for enhanced pleasure of both partners in case of penetrative sex.
Can long-term sex loosen the vagina?
Sexual activity does loosen the vagina but only temporarily. Once a woman loses arousal, the vagina contracts back to its original shape and size. Doctors and medical experts unanimously agree that regular penetrative sex does not cause any permanent change to the vagina’s structure. Unless your sexual routine includes something out of the ordinary, the possibility of any permanent change in the size or muscular tightness is unlikely.
Even so, many people feel that their partner’s vagina feels looser than before after their first ever sexual encounter – or even the first few. That’s because the hymen – a thin tissue membrane that covers the vaginal opening – may break upon the first sexual intercourse. Breaking of the hymen doesn’t make the vaginal canal any bigger.
It just frees up more space inside, making you feel that the vaginal has loosened due to the experience of ease of penetration. However, this isn’t a given, since hymen can tear or stretch in sexually inactive females owing to factors like sporting activities.
Does it mean the vagina can never become loose?
Well, no. The vagina can lose its elasticity and become loose, but only two factors can cause this change – childbirth and age.
A vaginal delivery can impact the structure of the vagina to a great extent. After all, the vaginal muscles stretch to their maximum limit to facilitate a baby’s movement from the uterus to the vaginal opening.
Since the stretch is so extensive, it can take vaginal muscles some time to tighten up again. Even so, they may not return to their original shape. In case of multiple births, the vaginal muscles are likely to become looser and less elastic.
Women also begin to notice a change in their vagina’s elasticity as they enter the peri menopausal stage – starting in the 40s. This happens because of a drop in the oestrogen levels in the body. As a result, the vaginal muscle tissues become thinner, less flexible, drier and less acidic. These changes can become more pronounced as one inches toward menopause.
What can be done to prevent vaginal loosening?
Are there ways to maintain vaginal tightness? Or regain it once the vaginal muscles begin to lose elasticity? Yes, there are. But before you decide to go down that path, take a moment to introspect whether you really need it. Vaginal muscle tissue is extremely flexible and designed to endure everything that nature decided to put it through - including the physically demanding and sorely troubling process of childbirth.
Even so, if you still feel the need to take extra measure to to retain and maintain the elasticity of the vagina, especially with advancing age, there are many different approaches for it and most of these do not require any medical intervention:
- Kegel’s exercises: The clench and release exercise for the pelvic floor muscles are one of the most effective ways to maintain the elasticity of vaginal muscles. These exercises – which primarily involve contracting the pelvic floor muscles, holding them for 5 to 10 seconds and then releasing – are highly recommended post childbirth and for women nearing menopause.
- Good sex life: Contrary to the popular myth that sex can loosen vaginal muscles, a good sex life is just as effective as Kegel’s exercises in maintaining elasticity. The expansion before intercourse and the contraction women experience during orgasm work wonderfully in strengthening the vaginal muscles.
- Regular strength training exercises: Exercises such as squats, pelvic stretch, glute bridges and leg raises also help in building the pelvic muscle strength, and in turn, maintaining the elasticity of vaginal muscles.
- Vaginal weights: In case your vaginal muscles have loosened and are losing their inherent elasticity, use of vaginal weight – also known as vaginal cones – can be effective in rebuilding strength through resistance. These tampon-sized bulbs can be inserted into the vagina, and required to be held in place through passive contraction or squeezing the muscles. To build up on the strength, the weight of the cones can be gradually increased.
- Vaginoplasty: In extreme cases, a surgical procedure known as vaginoplasty can be used to correct the slackness in the vagina owing to childbirth or ageing. However, this procedure does not in any way guarantee heightened sexual sensitivity, response or desire, as these are controlled by a host of other factors such as hormones, emotional state as well as the health of interpersonal relationships.
A woman may experience loosening of vaginal muscles at some point in life. Awareness about this possibility is the most effective tool to combat it. Incorporating the right exercises in your lifestyle early on can mitigate or reduce the possibility exponentially. As for regular sex, enjoy it stress-free. The vagina is extremely forgiving on that count.