It's no surprise many women feel insecure or unsure about their vagina's "tightness." It's something we become aware of at a worryingly young age, usually when we overhear boys talking/bragging/lying about their "conquests."
The rumor that women who have lots of sex have "looser" vaginas than those who don't, is an incredibly harmful one. Not only because it shames women who have a lot of sex—these rumors are rarely based on facts, so I spoke to Dr. Clare Morrison from MedExpress and asked her if she can, medically, call bullshit on it.
Where does this rumor come from?
"This concept has more to do with anxiety, guilt, or shame about sex—plus a societal fear of female sexuality and insecurity on the part of some men," Dr. Clare said. "After all, the vagina is an elastic organ that is built to accommodate different sizes and return to its natural shape after, so it's pretty extreme to believe that a lot of sex will change the shape in any substantial way."
Is there any truth in it?
Dr. Clare explained, "From a logical point of view, when you consider that women give birth and then contract afterwards, it's a pretty ridiculous notion that vaginas will permanently change in size after having a lot of sex! Overall, the vagina is a resilient part of the body that 'bounces back' to its pre-activity size pretty quickly." We'll take that as a huge NO, then.
Can anything have an effect on vaginal tightness?
"Admittedly, giving birth to multiple children can have somewhat of an effect," she said. "The vaginal opening will stretch with childbirth, but will gradually shrink back again to some extent. The degree to which it returns to 'normal' depends on genetic factors, in just the same way that women vary in how prone they are to stretch marks or scarring."
But Dr. Clare pointed out that even if after giving birth to multiple children, a partner wouldn't really notice any difference because it "doesn’t affect how tight the vagina feels during intercourse."
She explains that it's how tight the muscles around the vagina are that can make a difference. "They may be more stretched if the baby is large, the pushing stage prolonged, or if forceps are needed," she says. "Most stretching occurs during the first childbirth, but with every child, the muscles are stretched a little bit more."
Is there a solution?
"When it comes to a woman's 'tightness,' it is usually not the vagina that's the issue—but the pelvic floor muscles that form a figure-eight girdle around the pelvic area that affect [the] tightness," she explained.
This may not be a problem for many women, but if you're concerned, Dr. Clare suggested regular exercises. "If these muscles are exercised regularly, by doing pelvic floor or 'Kegel' exercises, this stretching can be reversed. In fact, I know of a woman who has had seven vaginal deliveries and who has excellent vaginal tone, thanks to doing these. Just like working out at the gym, it takes time to notice results; but is worth it to stay sexually healthy."
How can you do Kegel exercises?
"The exercise simply consists of tightening the muscles around the vagina repeatedly, for between five and ten seconds (gradually increasing), with a few seconds of rest in between," Dr. Clare said. "These are [the] same muscles you would use to suddenly stop the flow of urine if, say, the doorbell rings mid-flow!"
The technique can be refined by the use of kegel balls—weights inserted into the vagina. "The idea is to stop them from falling out by tightening the pelvic floor muscles. With practice, progressively heavier balls can be used," she explains.
"My advice would be to do simple pelvic floor exercises on a regular basis, every day. I always suggest to my patients that they spend just a few seconds tightening the muscles around the vagina after every visit to the bathroom. That's a good way to ensure that they get done regularly. However, you can do them anytime, even when sitting on the bus, no one's going to notice!"
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.