Along with a decreased metabolism, wrinkles, hot flashes and random black hairs on our chins (curse you!), the vagina takes aging in stride. Perhaps you've popped out a few kids — kudos to you — and practice your Kegels every morning, but still notice changes down under. Time has reared its ugly head in the form of sagging, loose parts and dryness like the Sahara desert. But vaginal issues are normal in the world of womanhood, and that's what is important to understand. While peeing a little when you sneeze is quite annoying, it is a common occurrence. Vaginas can hold their own through thick and thin, but here are some ways aging affects your lady parts!
Thinning of vaginal walls: When you're kicking butt in your 20s and taking names in your 30s, your estrogen levels are at their peak and your entire body is bathing in hormones. When you hit your 40s, your estrogen levels decline and cause the vaginal walls to become less resilient and thin out. This can lead to painful sex and more tears in the vaginal walls. Your uterus can also shrink, and this narrowing can lead to dryness and irritation because the mucous membranes aren't producing at peak performance. Maintaining enough sexual activity can help stop the shrinkage of the uterus, and estrogen treatments can also help. (via Women's Health)
Losing control of your bladder: Your reproductive organs are held in place by tendons, muscles and tissue. As you age, ligaments and tendons supporting the pelvic floor start to loosen (especially if you've had kids). This can strain other organs and cause bladder leakage. Your best move: Kegels, and lots of them.
It looks older: No one wants to talk about it, but let's dive right in anyway. Your skin loses elasticity as it ages, and your vagina is no exception to the rule. Bits and pieces feel looser, and everything is not so neat and tidy. But, through regular sexual activity, your estrogen levels will increase. And estrogen helps keep the skin plump and elastic.
Vaginal prolapse: Here's where the awkward can turn serious. Because that support structure of muscles and ligaments loosens as you age, some structures in the pelvis can start to migrate elsewhere. The uterus, rectum, or bladder can fall out of position. This migration can affect sexual and bodily functions. Symptoms of vaginal prolapse are painful intercourse, pressure in the pelvis, lumps at the opening of the vagina or reoccurring urinary tract infections. Regular Kegel exercises can help keep these structures in place, but you should see your doctor if you suspect your organs are trying to feng shui your pelvis. Vaginal prolapse is rarely life threatening, but still requires timely medical care.
If your lady parts ever seem funkier than usual, see your gynecologist. If menopause is looming on the horizon for you, check out this Skinny Mom article that outlines everything you need to know before menopause sets in.