So Your Vagina Is Loose: Now What?

Andrew Siegel MD  6/3/17

After your newborn  has used your vagina as a giant elastic waterslide (and perhaps repeated a few times), you may find that your lady parts are not quite the same.  Obstetrical “trauma” to the nether muscles (genital and pelvic muscles) and stretching of the vaginal opening can lead to permanent changes. Multiple childbirths, large babies, use of forceps for delivery, and age-related changes of the pelvic muscles and connective tissues further compound the issue.  This condition, a.k.a. vaginal laxity, is characterized by the vaginal opening being wider and looser than it should be.

recto copy

Image above of vaginal laxity in patient immediately before vaginal reconstructive surgery: rectocele (blue arrow: rectum pushing up into back wall of vagina), perineal scarring (white arrow: scarring between vagina and anus) and catheter in urethra (red arrow: channel that conducts urine)

Trivia: Leonardo Da Vinci had an interesting take on male and female perspectives: “Woman’s desire is the opposite of that of man.  She wishes the size of the man’s member to be as large as possible, while the man desires the opposite for the woman’s genital parts.”

Vaginal Laxity

Vaginal looseness–sometimes to the point of gaping– is one of the most common physical changes found on pelvic exam following delivery.  This often overlooked, under-reported, under-appreciated, under-treated condition commonly occurs following pregnancy and vaginal delivery.  Not only is it bothersome to the woman dealing with the problem, but it can also lead to body image issues, decreased sexual sensation, less sexual satisfaction (for partner as well) and disturbances in self-esteem.

It is important to distinguish vaginal laxity from pelvic organ prolapse (an internal laxity in which one or more of the pelvic organs –bladder, uterus, rectum–bulge into the vagina and at times beyond the vaginal opening).  The photo above illustrates a woman with both issues.

The vagina of a woman with laxity often cannot properly “accommodate” her partner’s penis, resulting in the vagina “surrounding” the penis rather than firmly “squeezing” it, with the end result being diminished sensation for both partners.  Under normal circumstances, sexual intercourse results in indirect clitoral stimulation with the clitoral shaft moving rhythmically with penile thrusting by virtue of penile traction on the inner vaginal lips, which join together to form the hood of the clitoris.  When the vaginal opening is too wide to permit the penis to put enough traction on the inner vaginal lips, clitoral stimulation is also limited, another factor resulting in less satisfaction in the bedroom.

7 Ways to Know if You Have a Loose Vagina

  1. You cannot keep a tampon in.
  2. During sexual intercourse, your partner’s penis often falls out.
  3. Your vagina fills with water while bathing.
  4. You have vaginal flatulence, passage of air trapped in the vagina.
  5. When examining yourself in the mirror you see the vaginal lips parted and internal tissues exposed (it should be shut like a clam shell).
  6. Sexual intercourse is less satisfying for you and your partner and noticeably different than before childbirth.
  7. You have difficulty experiencing orgasm.

Means of quantitating vaginal laxity and the strength of the pelvic and vaginal muscles that are used by physicians include:

  1. Visual inspection of the vulva, which shows vaginal gaping, exposure of internal tissues and decreased distance from vagina to anus
  2. Pelvic exam while having the patient contract down upon the examiner’s fingers, using the modified Oxford scale of 0-5 (0–very weak pelvic contraction; 5–very strong pelvic contraction)
  3. Manometry, a measurement of resting pressure and pressure rise following a pelvic floor muscle contraction
  4. Dynamometry, a measurement of pelvic muscle resting and contractile forces using strain gauges
  5. Electromyography, recording the electrical potential generated by the depolarization of pelvic floor muscle fibers

On a practical basis, means #1 and #2 are usually more than sufficient to make a diagnosis of vaginal laxity

 Vaginal Laxity:  What to do?

  • Over-the-Counter Herbal Vaginal Tightening Creams: Don’t even bother. These non-regulated products can be harmful and there is no scientific evidence to support their safe and effective use.
  • Kegel Exercises, a.k.a. Pelvic Floor Muscle Training: Worth the bother!  This non-invasive, first-line, self-help form of treatment should be exploited before considering more aggressive means. Increasing the strength, power and endurance of the pelvic floor muscles has the potential for improving vaginal laxity as well as sexual function, urinary and bowel control and pelvic prolapse.
  • Use it or lose it: Stay sexually active to help keep the pelvic and vaginal muscles toned.  Although you might think that sexual intercourse might worsen the problem by further stretching the vagina, in actuality it will help improve the problem and increase vaginal tone.
  • Energy-Based Devices: There are a host of new technologies that are being used for “vaginal rejuvenation” in an office setting. These are typically lasers or units that use targeted radio-frequency energy that are applied to the vaginal tissues. One such device uses mono-polar radio-frequency therapy with surface cooling.  It works by activating fibroblasts (the type of cells that makes fibers involved in our structural framework) to produce new collagen stimulating remodeling of vaginal tissue. The vaginal surface is cooled while heat is delivered to deeper tissues.                                                                                                                                                               Note: The jury is still not out on the effectiveness of these procedures. What is for certain is that they are costly and not covered by medical insurance.  Anecdotally, I have a few patients who claim that they have had significant improvement in vaginal dryness and other symptoms of menopause after undergoing laser treatment.      
  • Vaginoplasty/Levatorplasty/Perineorrhaphy/Perineoplasty: This is medical speak for the surgical reconstructive procedures that are performed to tighten and narrow the vaginal opening and vaginal “barrel.”  The goal is for improved aesthetic appearance, sexual friction, sexual function and self-esteem. These procedures are often performed along with pelvic reconstructive procedures for pelvic organ prolapse, particularly for a rectocele, a condition in which the rectum prolapses into the bottom vaginal wall.

 The term vaginoplasty derives vagina and plasty meaning “repair.”  The term levatorplasty derives from levator (another name for deep pelvic floor muscles) and plasty meaning “repair.” Perineorrhaphy derives from perineum (the tissues between vagina and anus) and –rrhaphy, meaning “suture,” while the term perineoplasty derives from perineum (the tissues between vagina and anus) and plasty meaning “repair.”

Within the perineum are the superficial pelvic floor muscles (bulbocavernosus, ischiocavernosus and transverse perineal muscles) and deeper pelvic floor muscles (levator ani).  Perineal muscle laxity is a condition in which the superficial pelvic floor muscles become flabby. Weakness in these muscles cause a widened and loosened vaginal opening, decreased distance between the vagina and anus, and a change in the vaginal axis such that the vagina assumes a more upwards orientation as opposed to its normal downwards angulation towards the sacral bones.

3. superficial and deep PFM

Illustration of pelvic floor muscles by artist Ashley Halsey from “The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health

The surgical reconstructive procedures referred to above narrow the relaxed vaginal opening and vaginal barrel and address cosmetic concerns. The aforementioned muscles are buttressed to rebuild the perineum, resulting in a tighter vaginal opening and vaginal barrel, increased distance from vaginal opening to anus, restoration of the proper vaginal angle and an improvement in cosmetic appearance.

public domain

Illustration above from public domain.  On left is lax vagina with incision made from point A to point B where vagina and perineum meet. On right the superficial pelvic muscles are accessed and ultimately buttressed in the midline, converting the initial horizontal incision to one that is closed vertically.

Marietta S pre-PP

Image above of lax vagina before surgical repair; (c) Michael P Goodman, MD. Used with permission

.Mariette S 6 wk p.o. PP

Image above of lax vagina after surgical repair; (c) Michael P Goodman, MD. Used with permission.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health  http://www.TheKegelFix.com

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