Sex After 40: How Aging Affects Your Vagina

Just like every other part of the body, the vagina changes with age. Dr. Oz reveals what every woman over 40 needs to know about her vagina so she can have great sex in midlife and beyond.

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How well do you know your vagina?  A study by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals showed that more than half of women lack basic knowledge when it comes to understanding their genitalia. Misconceptions can prevent you from having a healthy, satisfying sex life, especially after you hit 40, so it’s important to know exactly what’s going on down there.

Just like every other part of the body, the vagina changes with age. Issues such as low libido, vaginal dryness and chronic pain can arise. But don’t be alarmed. All of these problems are common and can be solved. 

Based on information gathered from leading gynecologists, Dr. Oz discloses what you need to know about your vagina after age 40 so you can maintain a happy, healthy sex life.

Thinning of the Vaginal Walls

In your 20s and 30s, the vaginal walls are bathed in hormones making them strong and robust. But as you enter your 40s, hormone levels, namely estrogen, gradually start to decline. This causes the walls, which are comprised of mucous membranes (vaginal mucosa) to become less resilient and more susceptible to trauma. Inflammation or tears are more likely to occur which can cause pain during sex.

To check for thinning vaginal walls, take a handheld mirror and observe the color inside the opening of your vagina. Deep pink signifies healthy vaginal tissue, whereas, pale or very light coloring can mean fragile vaginal mucosa. If you think you have a problem, see your gynecologist who will examine the entire inside of the vagina with a speculum. Remember, even if you’re not exhibiting symptoms you still need to your gynecologist once a year for routine checkups.

Treatment

Treatment for thinning of the vaginal walls includes estrogen creams or tablets that can be inserted directly into the vagina; an estrogen patch you can change weekly; or a vaginal estrogen ring made of rubber or silicone, which can be kept in the vagina for 3 months. For an alternative to estrogen therapy, try moisturizing the vagina with a little olive oil.

Vaginal Atrophy

Reduced estrogen levels can also cause shrinkage of the vaginal mucosa, which results in narrowing of the vaginal opening called the vestibule. In this case, pain can occur during initial penetration but often subsides once the penis is deeper inside. About 90% of vaginal pain occurs in the vestibule region.

Treatment

Vaginal atrophy can be treated with vaginal dilators – available in different widths and sizes – to help improve the elasticity and pliability of the vagina. Treatment usually involves 5 minutes of daily use with a lubricant. Be sure to discuss with your gynecologist before trying this treatment.

Your pelvic floor – just like your biceps – is made of muscle. Sex on a regular basis actually helps keep your vagina in shape. Kegel muscle exercises help, too. Click here to learn how to exercise those love muscles.

Medication and Its Side Effects

Many common medications such as birth control pills, antihistamines and anti-depressants can cause vaginal dryness, which is already an issue after age 40, again due to lower estrogen. As a rule of thumb, medications that list dry mouth as a side effect also cause vaginal dryness.  Low libido is another common side effect associated with hormonal change and/or certain medications, especially anti-depressants in the SSRI (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) category.

 

Treatment

A variety of lubricants – oil-, water- and silicone-based – effectively combat vaginal dryness. Talk to your gynecologist to see what brand they recommend. Saliva also works well as a lubricant and can enhance foreplay. 

Misconceptions About the Female Orgasm

The better you know your body, the better your chance of having a fulfilling sex life. However, women after age 40 often suffer the same problem as they did at age 20: they obsess over finding the G-spot. But the G-spot is hardly the only road to sexual nirvana. Female orgasms can happen in a variety of ways including stimulation of the clitoris, the vagina or a combination of both areas. Click here for more on the G-spot and here for more on orgasms after 40.