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Vagina – use or lose?

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Edited on July 3, 2018

A 20-something patient arrived at the office today and told us that she has not been having intercourse for over 8 months now. One of her concerns was whether she will be able to have pain-free sex when she resumes having intercourse. In other words, does the vagina operate under the ‘use or lose’ premise?

  • Fact: the vaginal canal is not a voluntary muscle that needs to be exercised to maintain its shape and function, but rather a structure that is built to expand with penetration, then go back to its smaller size — kind of like a tube-sock.  That is with the exception of the circular PC muscles that are found close to the vaginal opening.
  • Fact: women can go years between intercourse without a problem.
  • Fact: doing the Kegel exercises will strengthen the PC muscle, which support the pelvic floor (a good thing!), but will not stretch or tighten the vagina.
  • Fact: certain life events will impact on vaginal elasticity and its tolerance for the ‘rubbing/chafing’ of penetration. Examples include estrogen decline (natural, surgical, or induced menopause), vaginal radiation, or scars from surgical procedures, causing dyspareunia and/or vaginismus and requiring medical intervention.

Because the vagina is an invisible part of the woman’s body that cannot be easily stretched/inspected, it is susceptible to all kinds of worries. This is in contrast to the penis, which is always available for ‘review.’

Bottom line: it is okay to take the vagina on vacation…

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  • ann says:

    Hi,
    I think i may vaginismus . I am on a long distance relationship, I have coital sex every 2 months. The first time i have sex with my partner after 2 mo of sexual inactivity it doesnt hurt. The next time after that will hurt and if we keep going the pain becomes more intense. The only way to have painless sex is to do it, take a day off, and then do it the next day and so forth. the problem is on a long distance relationship i cant afford to take that many days off sex. Ive checked many times for stds and my paps smears are always normal. Do you think i may have vaginismus?
    Thnks so much for reading this