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Things That Happen To Your Vagina When You Stop Having Sex

Does the vagina shrink or become tighter?
PHOTO: Nick Onken
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So you haven’t had sex in about three years—pretty much since you and your then boyfriend broke up. And you’re not the type to sleep with people you don’t emotionally connect with. How will your first-time-in-a-long-time sex feel when it finally happens? And in the meantime, what’s going on down there? We asked obstetrician/gynecologist Dr. Gemma Datu-Fulgado to separate fact from myth.

Q: Does the vagina shrink or become tighter?

Women who are not experiencing menopause or women who have normal estrogen levels in their bodies typically do not experience shrinkage even after not having sex for a long period of time. Likewise, no amount of sexual penetration is going to make it looser.


The vagina is a thin-walled, expansive, cylindrical organ that is rich in blood and lymphatic supply. It consists of collagen and elastic tissue which are responsible for the vagina’s incredcible elasticity and distensibility. During a woman’s reproductive years, the vagina is well-supplied with estrogen. Estrogen makes the lining thicker and have more folds (ruggae), allowing it to stretch with intercourse and childbirth. However, during menopause, when levels of estrogen are low, the vaginal lining becomes thinner and has fewer folds, making the vagina less stretchy.

Q: Do the vagina walls dry out and become thin?

If you are in the menopause stage and you have declining levels of estrogen, the vaginal lining thins, the vaginal folds smooth out, and the vagina has less capacity to stretch. That, together with dryness (another common symptom of a drop in estrogen) can make sex difficult and sometimes painful.

Q: Does it become more difficult for the vagina to get wet and show other signs of arousal? Will sex be painful again?

Most likely not. Vaginal lubrication during intercourse is a fascinating phenomenon. Lubrication occurs when there is a rich blood supply encircling the vagina. The richness in blood supply, which again is brought about by estrogen, is responsible for the “wetness” during the act since it signals a gland (Bartholin’s gland) to secrete fluid.


Many people speculate that the pain felt during intercourse is due to the stretching of the hymen. However, once the hymen is stretched open by vaginal intercourse, it does not grow back again, no matter how long a woman goes without sex. The pain a woman can experience may be due to fear or anxiety about having intercourse again after a dry spell. Fear and anxiety can cause vaginismus (unusual spasm of the vagina) making sex less pleasurable. Another reason is that the woman might not be sexually aroused enough to be sufficiently lubricated for comfortable penetration. In these cases, using a lubricant makes sex more comfortable and enjoyable.

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Q: Does a dry spell give a woman bad PMS/menstrual cramps?

No. Menstrual cramps are caused by contractions in the uterus—a separate organ from the vagina. The uterus is the hollow, pear-shaped muscular organ which contracts throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle. Pain results if the uterus contracts too strongly, hence cutting off the supply of oxygen to the muscle tissue. Other causes of dysmenorrhea, the medical term for menstrual cramps, are endometriosis (a medical condition wherein cells in the lining of the uterus grow outside of it), uterine myomas or polyps (benign mass of the uterus), and infections. If you are having dysmenorrhea, visit your gynecologist. 

Q: What’s the advantage of being in a dry spell?

One important health benefit of dry spells is that you are 100 percent protected from catching sexually transmitted infections (like HIV, HPV, and syphilis), and you have 0 percent chances of getting unwanted pregnancies.

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