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8 Ways to Keep Your Vagina Healthy as You Get Older

8 Ways to Keep Your Vagina Healthy as You Get Older | Jo Divine

As we get older, our body ages, which can affect our health, including our sexual function too. Changes within the body can lead to vaginal dryness, vaginal tightness, decreased sexual sensation, low libido. However there are many ways in which you can overcome these issues to enjoy sexual intimacy and pleasure whatever your age.

What happens to your vagina as you age?

Like any part of your body your vagina ages, which can lead to both physical and emotional sexual issues.

Medically known as “Vaginal Atrophy”, this condition affects 50% of women during the menopause and 70% of postmenopausal women. It occurs when the tissues of the vagina become thinner, less flexible, less lubricated, and inflamed as a result of decreased oestrogen levels.

The pelvic floor muscles often become weaker over time which can lead to urinary incontinence too.

During sexual arousal and foreplay the Bartholin’s glands inside the vagina produce extra fluid, or vaginal lubrication, to make penetration feel comfortable and pleasurable.

Vaginal lubrication, controlled by the oestrogen levels in our bodies, protect the vagina and labia, keeping it healthy, moist and plump and encourages the Bartholin’s glands to lubricate. Being also slightly acidic it protects the vagina against bacterial and urinary infections.

When levels decrease during the menopause and post menopause the vagina can feel dry, tight and itchy and even bleed, making it more prone to infection such as thrush and Bacterial Vaginosis.

It may also take longer for you to become aroused, leaving orgasms feeling less intense and penetration can feel uncomfortable or painful as the vagina walls tighten. Over time, this can affect your libido and self-confidence.

A 2014 study of 8,000 women found that over half experienced vaginal atrophy post-menopause and 41% said it made sex painful, yet British women are 50% less likely to ask for help compared to those in the US and Europe.

A survey by the British Menopause Society (2016) has revealed that one in two women in the UK aged 45-65, who are currently experiencing or who have experienced menopausal symptoms, go through the menopause without consulting a healthcare professional. 50% of women surveyed reported that their sex life was affected due to vaginal dryness, vaginal tightness, decreased sexual sensation and low libido with 10% giving up on sex completely. Yet getting the right advice about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or alternatives to HRT can really help.

Dr Louise Newson is a GP and medical writer with a particular interest in menopause says

“Most of my patients do not have sex any more – such a shame. They change once their HRT is right though. I am amazed how few women have sex and put up with it. Also don’t know how their husbands cope. They also often say they have never been asked about sex by anyone before and are pleased to have the opportunity to talk about it”.

Here are some ways in which you can keep your vagina healthy as you get older

Treat your vagina with kindness

There seems to be a misconception among women and the beauty industry that our vaginas are smelly, unhygienic places that need to be thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis. Sadly the beauty industry thrives on promoting vaginal hygiene products that are very harsh on your vulva and vagina and that we simply don’t need! Some soaps, feminine washes and sprays exacerbate vaginal dryness and can lead to vaginal atrophy too.

“Douching” refers to washing out the vagina. Many women do this to feel fresher during their period or after sex, but actually it’s an unnecessary process. The vagina is often referred to being a “well oiled engine”, as it is a self-lubricating organ. The vagina also has a very delicate pH balance, so introducing chemicals found in douching products can actually do more harm than good.

By upsetting the vagina’s pH balance, also known as the “vaginal flora”, Bacterial Vaginosis and thrush, both common vaginal infections, can develop. This is because the new environment caused by douching or steaming is a more favourable for the bacteria to grow in. BV is often described as having a fishy odour, so is quite easy to identify and treated with antibiotics. Thrush looks like cottage cheese, a white lumpy discharge which makes your vulva and vagina feel itchy and sore, easily treated with anifungalcream pessaries

Steaming your vagina seems to have become a celebrity trend but will not benefit your vagina health and can damage it. Hot steam can burn the delicate skin of the genitals, it can upset the balance of vaginal flora and it will not have an impact upon your hormones.

Using scented products on your vulva and vagina can cause irritation and allergies. So avoid scented body wash and perfumed sanitary product.

“Use it or lose it”

Enjoying regular sex can keep your vagina in shape but for some women this isn’t possible if their partner has died, their relationship has broken down or they aren’t in a relationship. Many healthcare professionals recommend having regular sex or using a sex toy to stay healthy.

You can increase your natural lubrication and keep the vagina healthy by masturbating regularly, either manually or with a slim sex toy during solo or couple’s play. Regular orgasms can help you sleep better, improve your mood and make you look younger too!

Using a slim vibrator can also ease vaginal tightness by helping to stretch the tissues and offers pleasurable sexual stimulation if you are struggling to orgasm or experience decreased sexual sensation.

Love the Lube!

Using a pH balanced lubricant, such as YES organic lubricant, can ease vaginal dryness, making sex feel so much more pleasurable and comfortable for you both. Lubricants and moisturisers that contain oestrogen can also help the delicate tissues of the vagina walls.

Be aware that some lubricants available on prescription and over the counter contain chemicals such as parabens and glycerin (a sugar) which may cause thrush.

You may need to try a few lubricants to find one that suits your needs, rather than just sticking with one your GP has prescribed. Ask to change to a different one if you don’t find it helpful.

You may think they will do the trick being cheap and readily available in your bathroom / kitchen cupboard but you should avoid using household products as sex lubricants to protect your vagina health.

Have plenty of foreplay

Enjoy lots of foreplay to give the Bartholin’s glands time to produce the maximum amount of natural lubrication and increase your sexual arousal, and consider incorporating a pH balanced lubricant and perhaps a sex toy into your sex play.

Take penetrative sex slowly and try different sexual positions to ensure it feel comfortable and pleasurable too.

Choose Skin Safe Sex toys

Avoid using household products as sex toys to protect your vagina health.

When buying a sex toy or sexual lubricant you need to consider what it is made from, just as you would when choosing cosmetics and personal hygiene products. Many people are unaware that some sex toys and lubricants can be harmful to health due to the type of material they are made from such as rubber, jelly and latex and where they are made. Some sex toys and lubricants can cause allergic reactions, leading to irritation, burning, stinging and may cause thrush.

You may think you’ve bagged a great sex toy or cheap tube of lube but it won’t be cheap if you end up with an itching vulval or vagina or a bout of thrush and have to buy some antifungal cream or pessaries or even a prescription for antibiotics if you get bacterial vaginosis!

So choose skin safe sex toys and sexual lubricants to protect your assets.

Keeping your sex toy clean is essential so wash after use with soap and water or use a sex toy cleaner and if sharing, pop a condom on your product to prevent transmission of infection.

Quit Smoking

Smoking affects your sexual function by negatively impacting upon testosterone levels in both males and females, the hormone responsible for maintaining libido. Intially, testosterone levels in the body rise up temporarily when you inhale your first cigarette but, it doesn’t last long, and decreases after some time. Cigarette smoking increases carbon monoxide levels in the body ultimately leading to inhibited production of testosterone, bringing down libido.

A report, involving 79,000 women, published in Tobacco Control (2015) showed those who smoked from the age of 15 went through the menopause, on average, 21 months earlier than women who did not smoke. Thw women who said they smoked heavily (more than 25 cigarettes a day) were likely to have faced the menopause 18 months earlier than non-smokers. Even those women who had experienced years of passive smoking went through the menopause earlier than those women not exposed to passive smoke.

Know Your Normal

Any abnormal bleeding or pain/discomfort during penetrative sex or when using a sex toy should be checked by a medical professional as it may be a sign of a more serious health issue which requires further investigation.

Sex can feel painful or uncomfortable when you have vaginal atrophy which is why seeking medical advice and incorporating a pH balanced sexual lubricant into your sex play can help.

Talk to your partner

Often relationships break down when sexual issues occur. As well as verbally communicating, physical contact is as equally important. If you’re physically shutting your partner out as well as not talking about your issues, this will cause harm to your relationship.

Sometimes your body language can actually be an easier way of expressing your emotions. Holding your partner’s hand or having a snuggle on the sofa are silent indications of how you are feeling.

If things really aren’t working for you sexually with your partner, perhaps try exploring your body on your own through masturbation with your fingers or with a sex toy. 70% of women need clitoral stimulation to climax but over-stimulating the clitoris can make it far too sensitive to touch. However, there are ways to stimulate the clitoris without direct touch, such as through the fabric of your knickers. You could also use a slim vibrator like the Rocks Off Slinky Pinky to help you to relax and experience better sexual pleasure.

Even though our body ages as we get older, there is no need to give up on your sex life, there are many ways to keep your vagina healthy and continue to enjoy a happy, pleasurable sex life, whatever that may entail!

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