4 Things That Happen to Your Vagina When You Don’t Have Sex

Low estrogen causes your vagina to change as you age. Here are some (fun!) ways to keep it healthy.

Medically reviewed in January 2022

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Your vagina changes as you age, and if you stop having sex, those changes could worsen and even affect your relationship with your partner.  

Younger women’s estrogen levels are high and stable, so even if they have a sexual dry spell, their vagina is ready for action as soon as they hit the reset button. But women who are going through perimenopause, or who are already in menopause, can expect some changes that come but don’t go. But there’s no need to worry just yet. Urogynecologist Lisa Jambusaria, MD, of TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center in Smyrna, Tennessee gets real about the things you might notice if you’re not using your vajayjay on a regular basis, and what you can do to make sure yours stays in good working order.

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It’s drier and less flexible

As you hit middle age and your estrogen levels start to drop, the vulva and lining of the vagina becomes thinner, drier and less elastic, thanks to the lack of blood supply, says Jambusaria. “If you’re not keeping the vagina open with intercourse, it can also start to narrower and shorten,” she says.

Obviously, sex can become uncomfortable if your vagina is smaller and lacks the natural lubrication needed to make intercourse pleasurable. Jambusaria says she recommends vaginal estrogen replacement therapy for many of her postmenopausal patients who are having trouble with sex. The treatment comes in the form of creams, tablets, inserts or suppositories and can increase natural lubrication and elasticity in the vagina so that sex is more enjoyable.

Vaginal dilator therapy, a process that involves slowly inserting a vaginal dilator, or plastic round-tipped cylinder into the vagina while lying on your back, can help open up the vagina and maintain its length for better sex, too.

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You may not want to “do it” as much

A woman’s estrogen and testosterone levels decrease beginning in perimenopause, and so may their libido, says Jambusaria. A reduced sex drive is most common for women starting in their late 40s and 50s. Other bothersome symptoms, like hot flashes and night sweats, can also lessen a woman’s desire to jump between the sheets.

But the word libido encompasses a lot of different things. “It has to do with emotional desire, comfortability, desire for your partner, confidence in your body and self, and some of these things can change with aging,” Jambusaria says. Relationship problems and turnoffs like poor hygiene can cause a drop in your sex drive, as can antidepressants or blood pressure medications.

Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about the medications you take and whether they can affect libido. If your relationship is rocky, consider seeking couples counseling to help you and your partner work through any issues. 

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It may hurt when you do have sex again

If it’s been several years since you’ve had sex, you may experience pain when you revive your love life but don’t worry, that’s normal. The dryness and thinning of the vaginal tissues make sex feel tight and dry, rather than moist and open. Your level of discomfort will also depend on your partner’s penis size, says Jambusaria, so go slowly.

Here, vaginal estrogen can help with lubrication. Vaginal dilator therapy, kegel exercises and pelvic floor physical therapy to strengthen the area may all help prevent pain, too. When you’re having sex, try using a vaginal lubricant to create more moisture down there. Any natural oil based lubricant is safe if a condom is not being used, such as almond oil and olive oil.

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It may be harder to become aroused

Like your libido, your ability to become aroused may change over time, too. Low estrogen levels reduce the blood supply to your clitoris (the center of sexual pleasure) and vagina, so you may be less sensitive than you were before. These changes could make it harder to achieve orgasm, and when you do, it may be less intense (and you don’t want that!).

“Increasing the blood supply to the clitoris can help with arousal,” says Jambusaria. Having more sex with your partner—not just waiting until the urge strikes—can actually fuel desire. Other ways to stimulate the clitoris and increase blood flow include masturbation and, if you like, using sex toys like vibrators, dildos or clitoral suction devices. “These practices can help increase the blood supply to the clitoris, so you can become aroused and reach climax faster,” says Jambusaria. Exercise also encourages blood flow to the vag, while yoga helps relieve stress and activates feel-good chemicals in the brain. Just say Oh!

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