The truth about vaginal tightness and looseness

The tone of vaginal muscles is a much-discussed topic, but unfortunately the facts of the matter are considerably different to what we suppose they are.

Fact: The tightness or looseness of a vagina is not determined by how much sex you’ve had, and most younger women who give birth will end up with a vagina much like the one they started with.

The muscles in the vaginal wall and the muscles that hold the vagina in place (the pelvic floor muscles) are two different muscular components of vaginal tone.

The vagina

The vagina itself is very elastic, and consists of tightly-folded muscles that resemble the elasticity of the mouth – you can make funny faces with your lips as much as you like without stretching your mouth so it dangles at the edges permanently, which is exactly the same way the vaginal muscles work. They stretch. And snap right back to where they were before you made a funny face with them.

An at-rest vagina resembles an accordion, closed, and tightly-folded. The only times the vagina becomes looser are when a woman is sexually aroused, and when she is giving birth. The vagina can become more tense during anxiety – younger ladies tend towards more anxiety around things like fingering and tampons, with the added tension causing pain or discomfort.

A sexually aroused vagina relaxes somewhat to allow penetration, but it is only somewhat – the vagina doesn’t open up like a gaping chasm. It resembles the difference between a tight fist and a loose fist, with the loose fist being the sexually aroused and more relaxed vagina. If the vagina feels too clenched (causing pain and discomfort) during sex or other penetration (fingers, toys, etc.) then more relaxation – sexual stimulation – is required, because she either isn’t into it, or she isn’t turned on enough.

It’s important to provide plenty of pre-penetration stimulation to cause the relaxation of the vaginal muscles. Twenty minutes sensual play is minimum to give a woman an 80 per cent chance of orgasming. (See our sexoral sex and fingering guides, and choose the right lube for the job.)

Any vaginal tightness being experienced by lovers means she needs more warm, fun sensuality to get her vagina lubricated and become more open to allow pleasurable penetration to occur.  Another cause of vaginal tightness, pain an discomfort is the condition known as vaginismus, which hasn’t been fully explained by the medical community. If outrageous amounts of good quality foreplay with your very attractive partner (in whatever way that is to you) doesn’t work, vaginismus may be diagnosed.

Tight and loose vagina facts

  • Sex does not loosen a vagina in any way (besides slightly and temporarily) – the vagina tightens up again after sexual arousal ends, every single time, no matter how many times she has sex.
  • Childbirth opens up the tight vaginal folds (like an open accordion), and in younger women (late teens, early twenties), the vagina usually returns to its pre-baby tone. It will be more or less back to normal after about six months.
  • If a woman has several births, the vaginal tissue can lose some of its elasticity, the same way your favourite pyjama pants do. This means the muscles can’t fully contract to their normal tight accordion state. Ageing has the same effect.
  • Older women giving birth later in life can cause a looser vagina than a younger woman may expect.
  • Some women will become looser than others for different reasons – every body is different, so what happens to Susan won’t happen the same way to Katherine.

Vaginal contractions during orgasm

Vaginal contractions occur in the pelvic floor muscles that surround the vagina (in particular the pubococcygeus muscle), with the contractions usually involuntary and part of orgasm and/or sexual arousal, though they are not a mandatory component of an orgasm. Most women can contract the pelvic floor muscles voluntarily, as part of pelvic floor exercises. During orgasm, the anal muscles and vaginal muscles contract in concert.

Pelvic floor exercises (Kegels)

These do not actually have any impact on the vaginal muscles (the accordion), but in fact the muscles that surround the vagina, the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles hold the vagina in place inside the pelvis. These exercises are effective for helping the vagina feel tighter, and are useful for improving orgasms, since the pelvic floor muscles also contract during orgasm. Other options for improving the tone of pelvic floor muscles are small toys/devices that sit inside the vagina, which closes around them, or you have to hold them in to prevent them falling out.

Sometimes a physician will prescribe electrical current therapy, which stimulates the vaginal muscles to contract, thereby toning them.      

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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)