The human body is remarkable, ever-changing, and adjusting to the various phases of existence. The vaginal and pubic regions are particularly significant to women among the many areas that transform. Such changes, influenced by hormones, aging, and life events, profoundly affect women’s health and well-being. After all, women account for 49.6% of the global population, which means that over half of the globe is experiencing it.
This article will look at the pubic to vaginal changes that occur from childhood to old age, casting light on the complexities of each stage.
First, let’s describe the vagina so we’re all on the same page.
The vagina is a muscular tube, also known as the birth canal, that connects the cervix, which is the opening of the uterus, to the outside of the body. It is a 7.5-9 cm long elastic tube in the pelvis between the bladder and rectum and extends from the cervix to the vulva. The vagina is a complex human organ system with numerous nerves, blood vessels, and glands that secrete mucus to maintain mucosa moisture.
But how can a tube in your body hold a tampon in place while letting a much bigger baby travel through it? The vaginal canal, however, has some tricks up its sleeve that allow it to expand and contract as needed.
It usually collapsed at its normal touching walls and folds, allowing it to expand during sex or birth, ensuring proper functioning.
Incorrectly, many of us refer to the whole region as the vagina. But the inside tubular area is the vagina, but the external parts, including the labia, are called the vulva.
Functions of Vagina
The vagina is vital in human life, especially regarding sexual and reproductive well-being. Here are some of the vagina’s most important roles,
- Menstruation: The vagina facilitates the discharge of menstruating blood and mucosa from the uterus.
- Sexual Reproduction: During sexual activity, the vagina receives sperm and serves as a reservoir for semen before the sperm travel upward to find a fertile egg.
- Sexual pleasure: It’s very sensitive and loaded with nerve endings, which contribute to satisfying sexual pleasure. During sexual arousal, the vagina becomes lubricated to facilitate pleasant feelings.
- Childbirth: During labor, a woman’s cervix and vaginal canal open up to provide room for the baby to pass into the birth canal. The vaginal walls’ flexibility permits a physician to control the birthing process carefully.
- Natural Lubrication: The vagina produces a natural lubricant to maintain moist tissues, prevent discomfort during sexual activity, and prevent dryness.
- Immune Defence: Since its opening, the vaginal microflora (the bacteria already present in your vagina) and the vaginal pH work together to protect you from potentially dangerous diseases.
Vaginal Changes Throughout Life
The vagina, like other parts of your body, changes as you move through the stages of life. Let’s look at the vagina and how its function and structure change due to aging, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.
The Vaginal Changes That Begin in Puberty
Several significant vaginal changes occur throughout puberty, which signals the beginning of a girl’s journey into womanhood which is from 8-13 years old is the average age of onset for puberty. Estrogen, the female sex hormone, rises substantially throughout this developmental period. The vaginal area benefits from this hormone because it encourages growth and development. It leads to the following vaginal changes during puberty.
Blood Flow Increases: Estrogen stimulates the development of vaginal blood vessels. Consequently, the vagina receives an increase in blood flow, promoting its growth and development. During this time, girls may observe that their vaginal area becomes more vascular.
Vaginal Wall Changes: The vaginal lining thickens and simultaneously elongates, and the vaginal size increases at puberty, owing to increased estrogen production. This thickening up is natural and serves to prime the body for future sexual action.
Increased Vaginal Discharge: Another vaginal change that also occurs at this time is an increase in lubrication due to vaginal discharge, a natural process in the female body. Cervical and vaginal fluid production also increases with changes in the color, consistency, and frequency of their vaginal discharge.
Changes in the Microbiome: Significant shifts in the vaginal microbiome also occur at this time. During puberty, the number of bacteria that produce lactic acid rises, and the pH level of the vagina changes from relatively acidic to more acidic, partly owing to the effects of estrogen. This prevents the growth of germs in the vaginal environment and keeps the vagina at a healthy pH level as conditions are improved for the proliferation of good bacteria.
Developing of Vaginal Hair: Changes in hormone levels cause secondary sexual traits to emerge in puberty. This involves the development of pubic hair in the vaginal area, especially in labia. It has been reported that it might be the first sign of puberty observed by 15% of young girls. Hair initially seems silky, smooth, and light but gradually coarsens and darkens.
The menstruation will also commence, which will be discussed in the next part.
Vaginal Changes in Adulthood (20s and 30s)
A woman’s vaginal health develops further as she ages, but the changes are less dramatic and less noticeable than puberty.
From menstruation and childbearing, everything causes vaginal changes as per the situation.
Labial Color and Size Changes: The labia, or the inner and outer lips of the external genitalia, may enlarge and change color in one’s twenties. The skin flaps of the labia minora tend to darken as a woman approaches her 30s or begins having children. It has been argued that there is no universally correct proportion or color of labia every, and there is nothing to worry about.
Menstruation: The vaginal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle are orchestrated by the cyclical rise and fall of hormone levels. It also includes pH and blood flow shifts. Normally, the vagina is slightly acidic, which helps protect against infections. However, menstrual blood has a neutral pH, which can temporarily alter the vaginal environment. This shift in pH may make individuals more susceptible to infections during their period, so maintaining proper hygiene is essential.
Scientists are still studying how the vaginal microflora changes throughout the cycle. However, some research suggests that the balance of vaginal flora may be less stable during menstruation, leading to a rise in vaginal pH. (1) (2)
Pubic Hair: Pubic hair is rather common at this level of adulthood. However, its density and coarseness can vary greatly from person to person.
Hormones and birth control may cause dramatic changes in the look of your vagina in your twenties.
Birth Control Pills: Depending on the type of contraception and birth control used, a woman in her twenties may see vaginal changes such as vaginal dryness due to less lubrication. Also, some vaginal changes and low libido have also been connected to using birth control by many studies. (1)(2)(3)
Vaginal Changes in Pregnancy
Childbirth is a transformative event for the vagina, much like the rest of a woman’s body. Here are some key vaginal changes, with the first pregnancy being in the late 20s to early 30s.
Vagina Color Changes: The vulva darkens during pregnancy because of the increased blood flow and may assume a blue or purple hue, also known as Chadwick’s sign. It can be one of the first indications of pregnancy and can be observed as early as 6 weeks. Some pregnant women (almost 10%) also develop varicose veins in the vaginal area, known as vulvar varicosities or vaginal varicose veins.
Increased Sensitivity: The increased blood flow can cause heightened sensitivity in the vaginal and genital region, which some women may interpret as enhanced sexual delight.
Vaginal Swelling: As there is increased blood flow in the area, vaginal swelling becomes more possible as a result. This is a normal response to pregnancy and is commonly known as vaginal congestion.
Wekanes the Pelvic Floor: The muscles that support your pelvic organs might get stretched out and weak during pregnancy.
Vaginal Laxity and Sagging: Vaginal laxity describes the sensation of having more space in the vagina during sexual activity, which many people report. The vulva, or outer vaginal lining, may also take on a different look after giving birth vaginally, and the area may seem sagging. Weak pelvic floor muscles increase vulnerability to urine fecal incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
Vaginal Discharge: According to studies, it is normal for pregnant women to experience a shift in their vaginal discharge, which is usually clear or white and is common throughout pregnancy. This boost is natural during pregnancy and helps prevent infections in the genital region.
Musculature: The vaginal wall’s musculature grows larger as labor approaches. As the baby is being delivered, the muscular tissues relax, and the rugae flatten, allowing the vaginal tract to enlarge for the baby’s passage.
It is very much possible that the vagina may lose its flexibility after childbirth, yet the human body has an amazing capacity for recovery, and the vagina usually returns to its original form.
Vaginal Changes in the 40s and 50s
Thinning of Vagina: The thickening of the clitoris, vagina, and labia frequently diminishes. Changes can also occur in the pigmentation of the labia majora and labia minor. Due to these alterations, women are self-conscious about the appearance of their vagina.
Low Hormonal Levels: As one approaches perimenopause in their 40s and 50s, the body gradually stops generating estrogen and prepares for menopause. In the United States, menopause typically begins around age 52.
After age 45, most women will experience the peri-menopause, lasting an average of 4 years. When a woman reaches menopause, her body undergoes a series of vaginal changes.
Menopause is a one-time event that is marked by a person’s final menstrual period. It becomes clear that this menstrual period was the final after only 12 months without periods. It also signals the end of “perimenopause,” a term that means the time around menopause. Perimenopause begins at the menopausal transition and ends 12 months after the final menstrual period.
Vaginal Atrophy: Vaginal thinning and loss of elasticity are commonplace following menopause due to the dramatic reduction in estrogen. Atrophic vaginitis and vaginal atrophy are the medical terms for this medical condition.
Vaginal Dryness: Vaginal dryness is a frequent characteristic of menopause. It effects almost 50% of women in this age bracket. When estrogen levels drop, the vaginal tissues lose their elasticity and become thinner and drier. Discomfort or pain may result during sexual activity.
Decreased Lubrication: Reduced natural lubrication might make sexual activity difficult for menopausal women. It’s worth noting that several options exist for dealing with this issue.
Alkaline pH of Vagina: After menopause, the vaginal pH may become more alkaline, elevating the risk of infection such as bacterial vaginosis. It is very important at this time to practice adequate vaginal hygiene.
Less Pubic Hair: Hair has a natural growth cycle that gradually gets shorter as you get older. The pubic hair loss is exacerbated by testosterone, which becomes the dominating hormone when estrogen levels drop. They also turn grey or silver like any other part of the body. One may also notice a gradual thinning of pubic hair.
Loosen Labia: The proteins elastin and collagen, which originally maintained the skin tight, are lost as we age, leading to a worsening of labia skin. Even the appearance of one labial side may be elongated and flexible, while the other side may appear normal. It can also be known as vulvovaginal atrophy.
Muscle Weakness: The pelvic floor muscles are a sling for the uterus, bladder, rectum, and vaginal crest. Weakened by pregnancy and menopause, these muscles contribute to the sagging of pelvic organs. The medical term for this condition is pelvic organ prolapse.
Frequent UTIs: Menopause-related estrogen deficiency alters the microbiome of the genital region. And because of this, a woman in her menopausal era is more prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs).
What other changes occur at the level of menopause? well, we have a detailed article about it for better understanding. Please read it here.
Vaginal Changes in the 60s.
Shrinkage and color changes of the labia may persist far into the postmenopausal years. It is also normal for the hair on the labia majora to begin to turn gray and finally white and fall off. When the body stops producing enough vaginal lubricant, some women have dry, itchy vagina. However, regular sexual activity reduces the risk of dryness and itching by encouraging the body to produce more lubricant.
A woman’s body, including her vagina, vulva, and labia, will change in various ways during the course of her lifetime. It’s important to put vaginal changes and their health first at any age. Insight of the natural aging process and the potential benefits of caring for the vagina like the rest of the body can bring a lot of comfort to you. All these tips will be discussed in our next article on maintaining the best vaginal health. It will also cover details of cosmetic operations like labiaplasty, which may ease your mind and help you make confident decisions about your look.
Remember that your vaginal health is integral to your overall wellness and Prime with Time!.