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After a long dry spell, sex can feel a bit painful and uncomfortable the first time back in the saddle. You might think this is because your vagina is tighter from not having sex, but this is simply not the case.
Though multiple vaginal births can lead to some temporary stretching of the vaginal canal, no amount of sexual penetration is going to make you looser, says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., Yale Medical School clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology. Sure, it gets looser over time (as does every part of your body), but this has nothing to do with sex. It has to do with age and gravity. Ahead, sexperts weigh in on vagina tightness and how it changes throughout your life.
Not Having Sex Does Not Make Your Vagina Tighter
No amount of holding out is going to make you tighter. In fact, the old "if you don't use it, you lose it" trope is pretty accurate. If you don't have sex, do your kegels, and masturbate, the vaginal muscles can atrophy and get weak. This can contribute to looseness and even urinary incontinence. See, you should be having more sex to stay tight, not less.
That being said, the reason you might feel tighter after a sexless few weeks or months is due to a different manifestation altogether. "Women who are premenopausal, who have normal estrogen levels, typically do not experience shrinkage after not having sex for a year," says Leah Millheiser, M.D., clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University School of Medicine.
If you feel tighter during your first ride back in the saddle, it's probably because your vagina hasn't been stretched like that in a while. Any discomfort should subside after a couple of times.
A Tighter Vagina Does Not Mean Better Sex
If you abstain from sex to have some kind of virginal experience on your honeymoon, we advise against that. It will only make the sex less pleasant. "Tighter doesn't always mean better," Millheiser says. The idea that being tighter is highly sought after is a myth.
It's different for women who have gone through menopause, or who have recently had a baby, which can give you temporary menopausal-like symptoms. The inside of the vagina is a lush landscape of valleys and ridges called rugae, which give the canal room to expand as much as 200 percent. (Remember those weird crinkled-up shirts from the turn of the millennium? It's like that.)
Menopause Can Change Sex and the Vagina
When estrogen levels drop after menopause, the vaginal lining thins, the rugae smooth out, and the vagina has less room to stretch. That, coupled with dryness-another common symptom of lowered estrogen-can make sex difficult and sometimes painful.
The same thing can happen after months-or in some cases even weeks-of breastfeeding, or if you're on a very low-dose birth control pill that provides small amounts of estrogen. If you feel tighter in a bad way, be open with your partner about what you're feeling, get some lube, and give it time. If the narrowing continues to be a problem, ask your OB-GYN whether you should consider alternative options to help make sex more comfortable.
On the other side of the coin, if your vagina feels looser after giving birth, kegel exercises can help you get back into shape.
The point is, all vaginas and vulvas are different. Yours is a beautiful, magical thing just the way it is. Don't say no to sex because you're believing some nonsense hype. Get it while it's hot.
Gigi Engle is a sex educator and writer living in Chicago. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @GigiEngle.