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

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

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

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?

  1. Liz  

    Drying made sex painful but cream prescribed by gyno caused slight bleeding. Not happy with reassurance that was “normal”. Oral sex was more effective. No longer an issue since now a widow and not planning any sexual activity.

    • lainey  

      I’ve got hardly any hair down there ..none under my arms and I don’t pluck my brows anymore!! What the? No one told me about this!


      Don’t give up on the lip service!

  2. Lyn Dalby  

    Is it normal to lose all pubic hair?

    • Hazel  

      Yes nobody mentions about pubic hair loss.
      I am 60yrs old and been losing my hair for years
      Now I’m bald down stairs……

      • Sh  

        Then you are very with it! The younger generation are all into grooming!

  3. Mladen  

    Some vaginas are shorter because uterus drops deeper. It can hurt in fiery relationship.

  4. Helena  

    Just back from hospital, I have a bladder prolapse cause by fragile vaginal walls,, uterus is starting to prolapse as well. Will need a vaginal repair.

  5. Judy  

    Even having a Pap smear is extremely difficult and painful unfortunately.

    • Edna  

      Ouch! I have had such trauma I haven’t had a Pap smear in 3 years (I’m 70) There must be something that doesn’t hurt so much, but if there is (apart from topical pain killers) I am unaware of it.

    • Pat  

      You can use estrogen cream (script needed) 2-3 wks before pap smear …works wonders

  6. Sandi  

    The best thing I have found for dryness is organic coconut oil!

    • Ingrid  

      I found that also. I only use organic coconut oil for my whole body. After shower, I am a well oiled machine. 🙂

  7. Liz  

    A most interesting article. It has answered a few questions for me and now feel more comfortable.

  8. Frank  

    I opened this article titled “what happens ‘downstairs’ as you get older” expecting to learn something about myself – but quickly saw the intended ‘you’ of the article was a female.

    cool – except you’ve just alienated me a retired male who used to read these articles

    • Janene  

      You didn’t read the next line that mentioned VAGINAL dryness Frank?? OR noticed that it was a woman’s photo???

  9. Marcia Sikimeti  

    “Downstairs” surely we should be using more appropriate language.. Down stairs surely means, down the stairs. This is ridiculous in what should be a frank discussion on aging..

    • Nin  

      For goodness sake … don’t be so pedantic … we all know what “downstairs” means !!

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