Revealed: what happens 'downstairs' as you get older

When ageing is mentioned, people openly discuss changes to their hair, skin and face. What about those body parts which are less visible though?

Vaginal ageing affects every woman, but we rarely know what to expect. Now Dr Yasmin Tan has spoken openly to the ABC about vaginal ageing. Here’s what the gynaecologist and laparoscopic surgeon wants you to know:

1. Changes in colour

External parts of your labia and vulva will change colour with age. It’s common for the vulva to turn either a paler or darker hue. Meanwhile just like hairs on your head turn grey, so too will pubic hairs.

2. Changes in tissue

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Your clitoris may shrink with age, while conversely your urethra can become more fleshy and protruding. “Like skin anywhere else (vaginal parts) become thinner and a bit less elastic”, explains Dr Tan.

3. Changes leading to prolapse

The tissue walls supporting vaginal structures can weaken with age, sometimes leading to incorrect urine or faecal leakage.

In extreme cases, a prolapse can occur which means a lump could protrude from the vagina. For these people, surgery may be necessary.

4. Changes in lubrication

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After menopause, a permanently lowered level of oestrogen can lead to vaginal dryness. Having less lubrication throughout the vagina can cause real problems in the bedroom.

Fortunately, there is a broad range of lubricants and vaginal moisturisers available at your local pharmacy. As for sex, Dr Tan advises keeping it up “probably at least weekly”.

Sex actually stretches vaginal tissues and helps preserve elasticity. For women without regular sexual partners though, there are medical treatments such as oestrogen replacement or vaginal laser available.

5. You’re not alone

Whilst many women don’t have complications with vaginal ageing, 50% of us will experience “serious discomfort” at times. Dr Tan advises these women to contact their GP or gynaecologist.

“A lot of women suffer in silence,” Dr Tan says. “(Vaginal ageing) affects their relationships, their self esteem, their sex lives. It’s an important thing to address”.

Have you noticed changes downstairs over time? How do you stay active in the bedroom? Do you prioritise your feminine health?