Women’s health: Is this normal or not?

It probably wasn’t a subject of conversation at your latest girls’ night out, but no woman is immune from it. As we age, so do our bodies, including our most intimate parts.

Unless you regularly examine your vulva and vagina, you may not realize the changes that occur. But just like with the rest of our body, these parts are changing as the years go by.

You’re probably more likely to feel rather than see the changes. Read on for a look at how our intimate parts change as we age.

In your 30s

You may just be hitting your stride in your 30s, but the decade can bring a lot of different changes.

If you’re using oral contraceptives, you may find that you experience vaginal dryness. This occurs in some women because the pill stops the body from ovulating, which usually provides the body with natural lubrication.

On the flip side, many women in their 30s have babies. Pregnancy and childbirth impact the vulva and vagina in many ways, some that are well-known and some that are less so.

Among the lesser known effects of pregnancy? Women may develop varicose veins in the vaginal area due to the increased weight of their uterus. Increased levels of hormones during pregnancy can also change the color of your vulva.

Because the vagina is elastic in nature, it tends to return to normal after childbirth. But some women experience muscle and nerve damage to the pelvic floor, which can be treated with pelvic floor rehab.

In your 40s

Many of the changes that occur during your 30s can also occur during your 40s. Women in their 40s may also experience pigment or skin changes in the pubic area due to years of shaving or waxing.

Estrogen levels begin to drop during your 40s, so vaginal dryness and changes in vaginal elasticity also may occur.

In your 50s

The 30s bring significant change to your intimate areas — and so do the 50s. Many women hit menopause during their 50s, marking a time of significant hormonal changes.

As estrogen levels drop, the tissue in the vulva and vagina thin, which can make intercourse painful and cause irritation that may make you feel as if you need to urinate.

In addition to bringing about changes that you can feel, your 50s may also usher in changes in appearance for your intimate areas. The body overall often loses fat and collagen during this time period, and the vulva is no exception, so it may appear to get smaller.

With the drop in estrogen, the pH balance in the vagina also changes, which can make it friendlier to some types of bacteria. This, along with thinner vaginal walls, may make you more susceptible to infection.

In your 60s

While many side effects of menopause disappear over time, the vaginal changes that occur may not. Many women in their 60s experience vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse.

What you can do

If you’re experiencing discomfort or frustration at any stage of life related to your intimate parts, talk with your doctor. Your physician can gauge your overall health and symptoms and offer suggestions for treatment.

Treatment may include oral and topical medications, physical therapy, or even surgical procedures. In addition, newer, less-invasive treatments, including the MonaLisa Touch, are available to provide relief from vaginal dryness and other symptoms.

Dr. Chris Portera has more than 22 years of experience in medicine, and specializes in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Portera, or another member of the Erlanger Women’s Institute for Specialized Health by calling 423-894-1355.