Sunday, January 19, 2014

No Sex for 12 Years, Now Vagina Too Tight for Penetration



[1/19/14: So many readers are landing on this post from 2007 as they search for information about vaginal tightness and pain that I updated it, including current links. 
-- Joan]

Frustrated in Florida, age 61, had not had sex for nearly 12 years, until recently. She wrote in an email to me:

Apparently one's vagina does change after not using it for a long period of time. I always thought sex was like riding a bicycle, but it is not. One can't just get back on and ride! I experienced such pain during the attempted penetration that we had to stop. What a disappointing and embarrassing moment. My partner was very understanding, however I was just frustrated and disappointed.

I went to my GYN for an examination soon after and explained my circumstances. She gave me a thorough exam and said although I had many tiny lacerations and redness, my vagina seemed normal. She explained how one's vaginal lining becomes thin after menopause and her advise was to abstain from sex for two weeks, using lubrication to aid in healing.

When we engaged in sex again, very gently, I was once again disappointed with the level of pain even though using lots of lubrication. We once again had to stop.

So now I am wondering if there is some way I can stretch my vagina for it seems like it has shrunk. (Perhaps it is just my imagination running wild!)

Have you had anyone else write you with a similar problem and if so is there a solution? For your information I have never been on hormones and my partner's penis is of normal size.

No, it's not your imagination, and yes, it's true that the vagina will seem to shrink after a long period of abstinence, especially after menopause, and penetration will be painful or sometimes impossible. You'll find a helpful chapter in my book, 
Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex and several other posts about vaginal pain on this blog.

I'm disappointed that your gynecologist is not this helpful. Telling you you're "normal" while you have lacerations and pain is not helpful, is it? Most doctors do not know how to diagnose or treat vaginal pain, and it 's wise ask for a referral to a sexual pain specialist.

Please read Vaginal Renewal Program  by Myrtle Wilhite, M.D., at A Woman's Touch, a wonderful sexuality resource center in Madison, WI. It tells you step by step how to massage and stretch your vagina. Here's an abridged version:


* External Moisturizing and Massage: Increase the suppleness and blood circulation of the skin of your vulva and vagina with a five- to ten-minute massage with a moisturizing sexual lubricant like Liquid Silk®, a water-based lotion that will soak in and moisturize your skin, won't get sticky, and will help you massage with very little friction.

Push in to the skin with circular strokes, and massage what's underneath the skin, rather than brushing across the skin. Include the inner lips, the hood of the clitoris, the head of the clitoris and the perineum.

To complete your external massage, massage into the opening of the vaginal canal, using the same circular strokes. The massage itself does not need to be self-sexual in any way, but if that is comfortable for you, by all means explore these sensations.

* Internal Vaginal Massage: To massage inside your vaginal canal, we suggest using a lucite dildo which is very smooth and will not cause friction or tearing. Choose your size based upon how many fingers you can comfortably insert into the opening of your vagina.

After a session of external vulva massage, apply the same massage to the inner surfaces of your vagina with your dildo with lubricant applied on both skin and dildo. Rather than pushing the dildo in and out, use a circular massage movement. You are increasing skin flexibility so that your body can adjust to comfortable sexual penetration if you choose it.

You might also choose to use a slim vibrator for massaging the vaginal walls. Coat it in Liquid Silk and then insert it gently. Turn it on and let it run for about five minutes. You don't need to move it around, just lie there and let it do its work.

* Orgasm: For women who stop having orgasms, the blood vessels literally can get out of shape, preventing future orgasms. If you are able to bring yourself to orgasm, do so at least once a week (for the rest of your life -- seriously). This is preventive maintenance of your body.

* Kegel Relaxation: Kegels increase both the strength and flexibility of your pelvic floor muscles. Pay attention to the relaxation and deep breath part of the exercise. Learning to relax your pelvic floor will help you to avoid tensing up before penetration. (Read A Woman's Touch's Step-by-Step Kegels in this article about pelvic floor health.)

In my earlier book, Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty, I had interviewed a 75-year-old woman who had been celibate for 38 years and was in a new relationship. She was unable to have intercourse because her vagina had dried and narrowed to the point that penetration was impossible. She sought help from her gynecologist (a wonderful woman who bought dozens of copies of Better Than I Ever Expected to give to her patients!), who helped her. 

Best wishes for a joyful resolution to this problem -- please keep me posted.

--Joan

12 comments:

  1. gratitudeJuly 09, 2007

    Having one's vagina dry up and shrink with aging and no penetration for a long time is "normal" in doctor terms, but "normal" in medicine includes lots of age related conditions which do in fact have solutions. Doctors can only ethically talk about what they know, and many aren't aware of what can be done about this and other problems.

    I've been using the vaginal massage procedure outlined on the very excellent "Woman's Touch" website, after noticing that I was having some vaginal dryness at age 55. I ordered some Liquid Silk from them and it's great stuff! It actually moisturizes the skin of the genitals, feels more natural and lasts longer than other lubricants. Added plus, the all over genital massage is usually a huge turn on!

    I looked a while back for a smaller dildo and didn't have much luck. Everything at our local sex toy store is huge! I think the big on-line places have a better selection.

    I ended up getting an estrogen ring after trying just the massage for a while. The massage was helpful, but my main problem was lubrication. The estrogen ring rocks. Side benefits: I feel more energetic, more feminine, and my waist has gotten proportionately smaller.

    It's good to hear that "Frustrated in Florida" has an understanding partner. That makes all the difference is you ask me.

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  2. I think estrogen is the key but a lot of women are afraid of taking it due to the bad publicity about increased heart disease etc. No one has mentioned Vagifem, which is an estrogen suppository that does not leach estrogen into the bloodstream. It stays in the vagina only and it really, really works. Plus it's not messy or leaky. It's a tiny pill that you put in with an applicator once a day for two weeks and then 3 times a week ongoing and it will work miracles. Wish I had a partner and needed it.

    Erica, 64

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  3. gratitudeJuly 11, 2007

    Most of the cases where supplemental estrogen caused a problem were when it was used alone. When combined with progesterone supplementation there isn't the same risk. My doc told me I might have to increase the amount of progesterone cream I was using to balance things out. Apparently with the ring a small amount of estrogen gets into the bloodstream.

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  4. gratitudeJuly 19, 2007

    This is somewhat off topic, but an issue related to estrogen supplementation, dissing of older women, and WHAT WE'RE NOT BEING TOLD THAT WE SHOULD BE TOLD.

    For the last couple of years my hairdresser has been having problems covering my resistant gray hair. This was a source of worry and stress for me. I still have thick healthy hair and I still keep it long, in a stylish sexy layered haircut. Anyone who's really looking at me would realize that I still care a lot about my appearance.

    I drive to a neighboring town to go to these hairdressers, a gay couple, who are semi-retired, as in they used to work 80 hour weeks, were in lots of trade journals, and did hair for (celebrity) photo shoots. Now they just have a regular salon, but they really know what they're doing.

    One day I asked my colorist if there weren't something in my internal chemistry that had changed, perhaps something I could correct, which would make my hair take the color better. He said that wasn't a factor.

    He's an expert colorist and came up with a way to cover the gray, which I'm grateful for.

    At one point I thought I could just "go silver" but was told that was impossible without them cutting off most of my beautiful long hair, so I decided that I would keep coloring, and asked for a gradual lightening of the shade, which had been a very dark brunette. Darker hair doesn't look as good next to older skin, and a lighter shade would look better when the gray roots grow out between touch ups.

    I was at the salon last week, the first time since getting my estrogen ring. It popped into my head "hey! what if low estrogen was contributing to my resistant gray?" I mentioned this to my hairdresser who muttered something and disappeared into the back to mix my color goo. Meanwhile his partner, the better stylist of the two, said, "Your guess is exactly right. We just don't tell women that because it's such a delicate topic."

    Is anyone else familiar with the delayed response? About three days later, I thought "My hairdresser was lying to me! Why didn't he answer my query about internal chemistry honestly? Why did he just tell me there was nothing I could do to change things?" Then I started thinking about how, when left to his own devices, he doesn't cut my hair the way I like it and seems to bristle ever so subtly when I tell him how I want it cut. How I always leave there with my gorgeously styled hair and brown spots still on my forehead from the color where he didn't clean them up very well. How he didn't listen when I told him I was now using supplemental estrogen and went ahead and slapped all this dark color around my face where I have very little gray, just to be on the safe side. How when I put my hair back, as I have to do to work, it looks so obviously dyed around my face and is way too dark for my skin tones.

    I think this man does not really like women. Perhaps I remind him that he too is aging and he doesn't like that.

    But hey, I'm paying him what is to me a small fortune for good color, cut and styling. I do this because good hair greatly enhances my life. I think he should make it his business to pay more attention to me instead of treating me like one more frumpy old lady who's lucky just to have hair at all, which is my perception of how I'm being treated there.

    I've been their devoted customer for almost three years and have told all my friends how good they are. Needless to say I'm about to do some shopping around for a new hairdresser, at least to have that option.

    So for anyone out there with a similar problem, here's the real poop: YOUR RESISTANT GRAY MAY WELL BE DUE TO LOWER ESTROGEN LEVELS, AND SUPPLEMENTAL ESTROGEN MIGHT WELL MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE IN HOW YOUR HAIR TAKES COLOR.

    On the subject of vaginal atrophy:

    I told my friend about this article. She's 51, really into sex, and well educated. She had never heard that one's pussy could dry up if it wasn't touched on a regular basis. She also didn't know that estrogen levels affect the vaginal tissue and that she might at some point need estrogen supplementation, and she had never heard of an estrogen ring.

    The fact that the alarming studies about hrt being related to health risks were about estrogen only is not well known. No one bothered to write a big news article informing us that when estrogen was used with progestins the risks were greatly reduced.

    So more kudos to Joan and other brave women who are telling us the truths we need to know.

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  5. When this happened to me, I used the Estring and manually stretched my vaginal opening with fingers and a dildo. It hurt like hell at first, I kept at it (painfully), but eventually it worked! After that -- pain free sex.

    I've had other times when I've not had a partner and I let go of the regimen and gotten tight again. Now I know that there's a kinder gentler way to do this. I use a ceramic Jimmy Jane massager that is round on both ends, placing one rounded end against the opening of my vagina until I feel the pinch, then hold. Just merely hold it in place right there; don't push or power through. Hold for several minutes. If necessary, keep doing this several times over the course of 2 weeks.

    I found that by just holding it there at the first pinch, I was loosening the first barrier of resistance. Eventually, my vaginal opening softens and lets the ball in a little more and a little more each time. Then, voila! Penetration! Then it can be done with no pain. Ready for intercourse.

    This regimen seems to be more effective if done after an orgasm, probably because the tissues have naturally softened up.

    Miriam

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    Replies
    1. Miriam, thank you for sharing your experience. It isn't that the tissues softened up -- it's that the muscles that had become clenched were able to relax. Orgasm helps with that, as does gradual stretching and kegels done with the full relaxation phase. Best not to push through pain, though -- the muscles usually respond by clenching even more. Read the whole Vaginal Renewal program -- it really works, and without pain.

      Delete
  6. Use it or lose it is NOT just a lady problem. Here's from a guy, 66, married:

    A)Yes, use it or lose it, my doc agrees; she says that a wank "once a day to once a month is normal"; I schedule a Rosie Palm session 1x a week; to stay in touch with me;and ask my spouse to do the same (I've had to go to using a bullet vibe on my sac sometimes to come; I'd only have learned this by disciplined 1x wk wanking; to be a better lover for my spouse.

    At 66, takes me longer to come; so when I notice that during intercourse the wife is looking at her watch, thinking about her 7am Gray Bears Volunteer appointment, I end the worry about her by coming first (which I used to never want to do), being a "gentleman" and all. Now I
    finish on top of her belly if her V has had enough "miles on the odometer" for the night--I have her watch as I finish by hand.

    So, again, I come first, help her/hold her as she finishes with her vibe; nice.

    3) oceans of lube, she has a kind she likes, so do I, his and hers. A pain sometimes to always have to carry lube but better than having to always carry Birth Control; so I stop whining. Heck I have to use lube now to come by myself; so blame not thy woman for being dry, no?

    4) your man will come sooner and stay harder if he get's his T levels checked. Mine was Way Low. My lady doctor diagnosed me; I'd not a clue. was 148; now 700. BIG difference to health and Mr. Morningwood. 300 is low normal. Take a $70 (cash) blood test, ask for Free Testosterone. (Guys have three kinds: Free, BioAvailable, Total. Free should be 350 to 700. Ask your doc.)

    Damn, getting old is a lot of work.

    ReplyDelete
  7. PS,
    Joan, ever heard of a "little drop 'll do ya"; a small dollop of Testosterone Cream on the clit to up libido in a woman? The idea is female T help without the mustache/hair/masculine problems and all?
    My lady doc told us of this, suggested we try it. Heard of this? Never read a lick of this. (Sorry, had to.)
    Help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I checked with Paul Roberts, my pharmacist resource, and indeed it is being used this way. Thanks for alerting me -- it certainly hasn't been publicized.

      Delete
  8. I was suggested this blog by my cousin. I'm not sure whether this post is
    written by him as no one else know such detailed about my problem.
    You're amazing! Thanks!

    Also visit my blog post: Sky Angebot

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know who your cousin is, but he didn't write this post. The problem came from a woman who wrote to me, as I said. There are many women in this situation.

      If your problem is the same, Anonymous 2/23/14, I hope my comments and the info from Dr. Wilhite are helpful to you.

      Delete
  9. This is a really useful post. My partner experiences problems along these lines so I will pass her the link and she can check out the advice. Certainly things do seem to change 'down there' after menopause.

    ReplyDelete

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