When you think of menopause, what comes to mind? Hot flashes? Night sweats? Loss of your period? Mood swings? Those are enough symptoms to make your head spin. But no one ever talks about what happens to the vagina. The hormonal changes that cause common symptoms during menopause also physically change your body down there.
These vaginal changes begin in perimenopause and occur through post-menopause. If you’re experiencing any of the following, know these changes are entirely normal. There are plenty of ways to help manage them, so your vaginal health thrives for years to come.
Let’s discuss everything from dryness to changes in size, and I’ll give you our best tips on how to support a healthy vagina no matter what stage of menopause you’re in.
You may experience vaginal dryness and irritation.
Estrogen and collagen promote lubrication in the vaginal walls. Estrogen production begins to decline during perimenopause and eventual stops with menopause. Collagen production starts to drop by age twenty-five and this decline increases during menopause. This loss of production causes thinning and drying of vaginal tissues known as vaginal atrophy.
When this happens, you may experience other symptoms such as vaginal irritation, burning, and itching. We recommend using quality products specifically formulated for use on the vagina or vulva that are made with non-irritating ingredients that promote a healthy pH level, like our revitalizHER Serum.
Your vagina may change size and shape.
Your vagina is composed of muscle tissue. Like other muscle tissue in your body, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Lack of stimulation will cause a loss of tone and tightness, which can shrink your vaginal walls. Sex, masturbation, pelvic floor exercises, and devices like vFit are the best way to support healthy vaginal muscles during menopause (or any time, really).
Sex might be uncomfortable and even painful.
Speaking of sex, it may become uncomfortable. As the vaginal skin becomes thinner and more fragile during menopause, you are prone to tearing and bleeding. Coincidentally, frequent vaginal intercourse and masturbation increase blood flow and moisture in the area, reducing your risk injury. But we also recommend plenty of foreplay and vaginal lubrication to protect your delicate tissue during sex.
Your vaginal odor may change.
During your reproductive years, vaginal pH is typically 3.5-4.5. But it takes the right amount of estrogen to maintain these levels. As your estrogen levels decline, the pH of your vagina becomes more acidic. You may notice more watery discharge with an unpleasant odor. This is a typical symptom of menopause, and if it becomes bothersome, talk to your doctor.
You can get more UTIs.
When estrogen decreases, it can cause the lining in your urinary tract to lose volume. Not only does this result in vaginal dryness, but it also increases your risk of exposure to bacteria that causes urinary tract infections. We can’t stress enough the importance of promoting healthy vaginal lubrication, which also helps reduce your risk of UTIs.
You can develop pelvic organ prolapse.
The loss of estrogen and collagen experienced during menopause causes vaginal walls and the surrounding supportive tissue to thin and lose strength. Think of the supporting structures that comprise the pelvic floor as a hammock that holds in your pelvic organs. If these supportive structures weaken, experience trauma, or stretch too far, you can experience the prolapse or fall of an organ, such as the uterus.
If prolapse occurs, the organ can press against the vagina wall and even protrude through the vagina’s opening. Some women may experience an initial prolapse during vaginal childbirth, and it often goes undiagnosed. Menopause can worsen the condition and make prolapse more evident.
Prolapse symptoms vary from woman to woman, but it can cause increased pelvic pressure, a heavy or pulling feeling, low back pain, or urinary/bowel incontinence. Talk with your healthcare provider if you experience any of these issues.
Vaginal health and wellness start at any age.
Though it’s optimal to begin your vaginal wellness regimen early on, you can start preventative and healing measures at any age. These include:
- Eating a nutritious diet filled with whole foods
- Avoiding junk food, alcohol, and smoking
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Reducing stress
- Getting daily exercise
- Maintaining a strong network of support
- Have plenty of sex (alone or with a partner)
- Use products that promote a healthy vaginal pH
- Keep your vaginal muscles strong