Aging is a natural aspect of life, and while it brings wisdom and experience, it also brings several physical changes in the whole body. As women age, their bodies undergo various changes, with the vagina frequently exhibiting noticeable differences. That is why keeping up the vitality of the vagina becomes very important with aging.
In this detailed guide, you’ll learn how to prioritize and maintain your vaginal health so that you may live a long, healthy, and happy life.
Understanding Vaginal Health
The term “vaginal health” describes the condition of the vagina, the surrounding tissues, and the pelvic floor muscles. It includes various elements, including lubrication, elasticity, and overall comfort. The vagina has a naturally acidic pH (although this can vary with a woman’s age), is naturally lubricated, and contains large numbers of helpful bacteria that help prevent infections.
Small quantities of discharge are normal for a healthy vagina, anything from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of discharge a day,
Hormones are essential in keeping the feminine organs healthy and vibrant. Vaginal health and lubrication are directly attributable to estrogen. Vaginal changes are a natural consequence of a woman’s declining estrogen levels, which occurs with age. All these changes have already been discussed in our previous article on vaginal changes as we age.
Factors that Can Affect Vaginal Health
The first step in ensuring your vaginal health is at its best is learning about the factors that might impact it. Vaginal health is affected by several factors, some of which shift as a person ages. The vagina of a 17-year-old does not function identically to the vagina of a postmenopausal woman. So many factors can affect vaginal health, such as,
Hormonal Changes: The balance of hormones in the body is crucial to vaginal wellness. Changes in vaginal pH and hydration are susceptible to hormonal fluctuations, such as during pregnancy, menopause, and the menstrual cycle. These changes raise the risk of dryness, irritation, and infection.
Pregnancy and Childbirth: Changes in vaginal health are common throughout pregnancy and after delivery. Birth causes physical stress, hormonal changes, and increased vaginal discharge. Tears or incisions in the vagina and loss of vaginal muscle tone are also common during childbirth.
Psychological Issues: Negative effects on vaginal health have been linked to stress. Stress can weaken the immune system and throw off the balance of hormones, leaving you more vulnerable to sickness.
Chronic Conditions: Vaginal health can be negatively impacted by disorders that weaken the immune system and disrupt hormonal balance, such as diabetes and autoimmune diseases.
Vaginal Infections: Vaginal yeast infections and unpleasant vaginal odor are common problems for women of all ages, and both can be caused by various factors that affect vaginal health.
Tips for Maintaining Vaginal Vitality as You Get OlderAge
Vaginal health becomes increasingly important as women age. The vagina, like the rest of the body, changes with time, and taking care of it is crucial to your health. Here are a few tips that you can follow to keep the vitality of the vagina.
It may be time to reconsider your smoking habits if you’re experiencing infections, dryness, or unpleasant odors as many other harms smoking can do to the body. It has also been found to affect vaginal health.
It has been found to exacerbate vaginal dryness by reducing blood flow to vaginal areas, leading to increased dryness. Even another study found that smokers are more likely to have severe vaginal atrophy (VA) and enter menopause earlier than nonsmokers, with an average age of 48.5 years. As a result, quitting smoking is advocated as a means to better overall and vaginal health.
One of the many benefits of engaging in regular physical activity is improved vaginal health. It has been found that regular exercise can improve vaginal moisture and lessen dryness by increasing blood flow to the pelvic region. Also, women who are overweight or obese are more likely to experience urine incontinence, according to research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2009. Fortunately, this risk can be lowered with weight control and consistent exercise.
Many doctors and physical therapists recommend walking, swimming, doing yoga, or riding a bike to improve the circulation and vaginal health throughout life. If you have preexisting health issues or are worried about your vaginal health, it is best to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
Avoid Talcum Powder And Talc Products
One long-standing practice deemed risky for years is using talcum powder or any other type of powder in the vaginal or baby powder to feel fresh.
Research from the American Association for Cancer Research suggests that patting on talcum powder, or any vaginal powder with talc in its ingredients, can increase the risk of invasive ovarian cancer by about 30%, and frequent use can double or triple the risk. Talcum powder can irritate vaginal mucous membranes, causing discomfort and potential infections. It also fosters bacteria and yeast growth, increasing the risk of bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.
Because of these concerns, talcum powder is not a good choice for the vaginal region, and it is best to avoid using talcum powder or any product containing talcum in the vagina.
Be Knowledgeable About Medications
So the best practice is to talk to your doctor about other treatment choices if you experience changes in vaginal dryness or pain after taking a new drug.
Vaginal health relies on regular, adequate hydration, and vaginal dryness and pain may be avoided by drinking enough water, which helps the body create enough vaginal lubricant. Your vaginal tissues will benefit from this and the rest of your body.
Drink at least eight glasses of water daily; more if it’s hot or you’re exercising strenuously. Here are some suggestions for increasing your daily water intake:
- Always carry a bottle of water
- Use an app to monitor your information or set reminders on your mobile device.
- Infuse water with citrus fruit chunks, cucumber slices, mint leaves, or berries.
- Consume before meals
- Drink herbal tea
Even if water does not eliminate vaginal dryness, the body will appreciate the hydration!
Have Regular Sexual Activity To Maintain Vaginal Health
Safer sex is one of the greatest and simplest ways to protect your vaginal health. It has been shown that sex activities assist in maintaining vaginal suppleness by preventing the vagina from constricting and tightening too much. If you want to keep your vagina healthy and your pH levels stable while engaging in sexual activity, try the following tips.
- Urinating after sexual activity can help reduce UTIs.
- It is a good idea to give your vulva a gentle rinse to remove any lingering germs.
- If you engage in sexual activity, you should use condoms and be checked for sexually transmitted infections regularly.
- If you use sex toys, it is recommended to wash them completely as per the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations.
Treatments For Vaginal Dryness
Dryness in the vaginal area is a common problem that can make sex unpleasant, causing itching, burning, and pain. The good news is that this problem can be treated, and several different methods can improve vaginal health. The most often-used remedies for vaginal dryness are listed below.
Like other body tissues, vaginal tissue can become dry. If you experience dryness or discomfort during sexual activity, moisturizing can assist. A vaginal moisturizer has been found to help minimize dryness by rehydrating vaginal tissue. These moisturizers may also alleviate symptoms of itchiness, irritation, and painful sex. They can be used daily or with a gap of two or three days.
Vaginal Moisturizers are available without a prescription, and if you need help deciding which product is best for you, your healthcare provider can offer guidance on how to use these products.
Topical estrogen ointment is formulated to alleviate the symptoms of vaginal dryness. Applying the cream directly to the vaginal area will absorb less estrogen than orally.
The following are examples of topical estrogen treatments:
- Estrogen Ring: This malleable ring is inserted into the vaginal canal. The discharge of estrogen from the ring alleviates menopausal vaginal discomfort.
- Vaginal creams: These may be administered to the vaginal interior. The estrogen in the product is absorbed into the bloodstream, alleviating symptoms of vaginal atrophy and dryness.
- Estrogen Tablet: This tablet is administered vaginally to replenish estrogen levels. However, those who have had breast cancer aren’t the best candidates for taking estrogen supplements. And it is always wise to consult the doctor before starting any supplements.
For women who suffer from vaginal dryness, using a lubricant can significantly improve the quality of their sexual experience. As these lubes can assist in reducing the friction that causes pain and discomfort during intimacy by replacing the fluids lost due to vaginal dryness. Water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based lubricants are only a few of the various formulations available.
Remember to never lubricate your private parts with petroleum jelly or baby oil, as they can cause further inflammation and risks of infections. According to one research, even Women who use petroleum jelly on their vaginal areas are more likely to have a positive test for bacterial vaginosis.
Know your body and your vaginal health inside and out. Knowing what to expect as you age might help you make better choices regarding your health care.
Practice Good Hygiene
It’s essential to practice good hygiene no matter how old you are. Some tips are mentioned for maintaining a proper vaginal hygiene throughout the life.
- Wear comfortable Clothing: Yeast may grow and spread quickly in the warm, wet environments created by certain materials and close-fitting garments. Pick out garments that let your vulvovaginal region breathe and dry up without hassle. Avoid thongs and, instead, go for comfortable cotton underwear. (Then wash in hot water to kill off any bacteria.) If you’re prone to yeast infections, immediately change from damp swimwear to sweaty workout clothes.
- Care during Periods: Maintain proper hygiene by replacing menstrual products almost 2 to 3 times daily. Also, it would be best to wash or clean the region during your period routinely.
- Cleaning the Body: It’s important to make cleaning your privates a regular habit. However, scrubbing the genital area is unnecessary. Warm water and a moderate, fragrance-free soap to clean the vaginal region. Avoid using irritants like scented feminine hygiene products, douches, scrubs, or too much soap in the genital region since doing so might upset the delicate vaginal microbiota balance. In addition to upsetting the body’s average pH balance, they may promote infection.
Instead of rubbing the skin with a washcloth, use your fingers. After showering, dry off your vulva with a soft towel.
- Care in Bathroom: After using the restroom, it’s best never to wipe backward, as it might spread bacteria from your anus to your vagina.
Remember that the vagina is not a flower and was never meant to be if you’re worried about vaginal odor. You should visit your Moreland OB-GYN if you notice a change in your regular odor and have accompanying burning, itching, or other discomforts.
Regular Checkup Schedules
Keeping your vaginal health in check requires frequent gynecological checkups.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women should get their first screening gynecologic checkup by the time they are 21 years old. But as you get older, regular gynecological exams become more important. The early detection of problems through routine screenings allows for quicker diagnosis and treatment.
Treat Vaginal Infections Right Away
Common vaginal infections include trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis, and yeast infections. Failing to treat these infections can cause serious health issues.
Vaginal yeast infections are quite common, with as many as 75% of women experiencing at least one case over their lifetimes. Self-treatment with an OTC drug is possible if you are yeast infection-prone and can identify the signs. If the symptoms persist, however, medical attention is required without delay. It’s important to note that recurring yeast infections are common in women with poorly managed diabetes or HIV.
In contrast to yeast, bacterial vaginosis is caused by an excess of bacteria in the vagina. Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a parasite.
That is why it is vital to treat these infections since they can create unpleasant, painful, and significant issues with reproductive health if left untreated.
The pelvic floor muscles are essential for holding up the genital region and may strengthened through Kegel exercises. These exercises can benefit vaginal health by strengthening pelvic floor muscles and increasing bladder control. Kegel exercises alleviate or even eliminate discomfort by toning weak abdominal muscles and have been demonstrated to boost vaginal blood flow and vaginal muscular strength after childbirth.
A study published in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research found that frequent pelvic exercises, especially after childbirth, helped to increase sexual efficacy. Regular Kegel exercises after childbirth have been demonstrated to boost vaginal blood flow and vaginal muscle strength.
Consistency is key to improving vaginal health. Include Kegel exercises in your regular routine if you can. You can do them discretely while waiting for an appointment, watching television, or sitting at your computer.
Vaginal and reproductive health are directly tied to lifestyle factors, including food.
Key components that promote vaginal health may be found in a diet abundant in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Antioxidant-rich foods and those rich in omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have beneficial effects on inflammation and vaginal tissue flexibility.
Yogurt has antifungal properties that may make it helpful in preventing and treating yeast infections. If a woman is prone to yeast infections, she may benefit from eating plain Greek yogurt daily or taking a probiotic supplement high in Lactobacilli. As reported in the Archives of Family Medicine, a daily intake of just 150 ml of yogurt has been shown to protect against both candidal vaginitis and bacterial vaginosis.
The high vitamin C concentration of oranges makes the vaginal walls more moist, facilitating entry. It provides energy to the body, which might translate to a longer sexual experience. Even another study suggests Vitamin C halves the risk of recurrent vaginal infections.
Research published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine in July 2012 revealed that taking a cranberry supplement daily might be helpful for people prone to urinary tract infections.
Whether you like broccoli or not, eating it regularly can help restore your vaginal health. Because it contains many flavonoids, the antioxidants your body needs in sufficient quantities. Research published in the International Journal of Cancer suggests that eating a lot of broccoli may significantly reduce your risk of developing ovarian cancer. That’s certainly sufficient motivation to load up on broccoli at every meal.
Limit Sugar Intake
Sugar is an enemy in every respect. In addition to causing weight gain, it can ruin your sexual life. Once within the body, sugar is metabolized into glucose. According to research published in The Journal of Nutrition, an increase in sugar intake has been linked to an increase in vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis.
Therefore, it is best to limit sugar intake.
We all know that stress negatively affects our bodies and minds, including gastrointestinal problems, sleeplessness, etc. Negative impacts on vaginal health have also been linked to chronic stress. Vaginal dryness and tightness of the pelvic floor muscles are two other symptoms that have also been related to stress.
Taking measures to reduce stress can boost vaginal health and general wellness by practicing relaxation methods like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.
Hormone treatment for menopausal women may help relieve vaginal dryness and pain.
Vaginal estradiol (estrogen) and sometimes vaginal testosterone are an effective and safe methods of treating vaginal dehydration and pain. Prescription estrogen treatment has been shown to alleviate vaginal dryness, restore vaginal blood flow, improve vaginal tissue thickness and suppleness, and restore a healthy vaginal environment, according to the North American Menopause Society.
But these vaginal hormones may not be suitable for all women. Before beginning medications, discussing the risks and benefits with your healthcare provider is essential.
Herbal Supplements and Teas
Menopause can negatively affect vaginal health, but nutrients like black cohosh and evening primrose oil may help. Before using them, you should consult a healthcare professional.
Certain herbal drinks, such as chamomile and red raspberry leaf, may calm the vaginal region with all the menopausal symptoms. But like everything else, it is always recommended to consume them in moderation.
By following these tips and remaining proactive about your health, you can travel through each life stage in good health and comfort.
It’s natural for vaginas to change as women age, but it doesn’t mean you have to face any discomfort. Consult a gynecologist if, after following all these tips correctly and keeping them in mind, you still feel your vagina is lax or cannot maintain proper vaginal health. Getting an examination of your condition by a gynecologist will help you understand the possible treatment options, such as vaginal tightening surgery and other procedures.
Vaginal and pubic areas are more than physical characteristics; they are intrinsically linked to a woman’s sense of self. Women may learn to accept their bodies at any stage by learning about the physiological and psychological changes that occur as they age.