Women’s bodies go through several changes, whether it’s stretch marks, hot flushes or sagging skin. But losing vaginal tightness isn’t as openly discussed and can sometimes come as a shock, leaving many unsure how to deal with it.
Losing some elasticity in the vagina is extremely common and can be caused by giving birth, menopause, being overweight and even smoking. Weak pelvic muscles can lead to urinary incontinence, dryness, and pain during intercourse. Yet women are often too embarrassed to seek medical advice, with many turning to the internet for guidance instead.
Dr Rekha Tailor, founder and medical director of Health & Aesthetics, said: “It’s important to separate the doctor-recommended treatments, which have had success with strengthening the vaginal muscles, from the dangerous trends that should be avoided at all costs.”
Due to the rise of bloggers, forums and social media, there’s a surge of health hacks appearing online that promise to provide an easy solution to weak vaginal muscles. But do they have any proven benefits or could they actually cause harm?
Apple cider vinegar feminine wash
An unusual douching technique that has emerged in recent years is using apple cider vinegar to tighten the vagina. Professionals were quick to warn women against using this method, which involves soaking a tampon in the vinegar before insertion or making a watered-down vinegar bath.
Dr Shree Datta, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at My Healthcare Clinic, said: “I wouldn’t recommend inserting vinegar into your vagina as it can alter the pH balance of the area and increase the risk of infection. In some cases, it can also sting, without any real tangible proven benefits.”
Inserting wasp nests into the vagina
The bizarre health hack of using wasp nests––known as oak galls––to tighten the vagina, previously became widely-discussed online. The balls containing bark and the excretions of wasps grow when a gall wasp punctures an oak tree and unloads their larva.
Some believe that applying a paste of grounded oak galls into the vagina or boiling them in water to create a feminine wash can restore the natural elasticity and tighten the pelvic muscles.
But Dr Tailor warns this method could have detrimental results: “As well as potentially causing stinging, this remedy would induce dryness and destroy the vagina’s protective barrier against germs and infections. This can cause pain during sex and increase the risk of contracting HIV.”
Natural herbal remedies
Some think pouring a blend of boiled gooseberries and water onto the vagina can increase the elasticity of the vaginal muscles. However, there’s no scientific data to back up this theory.
Dr Tailor continued: “Applying anything that isn’t doctor-approved to your genitals could disrupt the vagina’s natural flora and lead to infection.”
Spreading aloe vera gel on to the internal and external areas of the vagina can supposedly tighten the pelvic muscles. Although aloe vera has several health benefits, there isn’t enough research to confirm how effective or safe it is to use on genitals.
“Seek medical advice from a specialist Gynaecologist before undertaking self-treatment to make sure you aren’t missing a medical problem that might need surgical treatment,” Dr Datta said.
Some believe that pouring an extract of the herb Curcuma comosa onto the vagina once a month can prevent the vaginal walls from prolapsing, as well as strengthen and tighten the vagina walls. But, again, these results are unfounded.
A change in diet
Online discussions advise amending your diet to influence the pelvic floor muscles. Here are some examples:
- Avoid foods high in citric acid (e.g. grapefruit, lemon, and raspberries) which can irritate the pelvic floor and worsen urinary incontinence symptoms.
- Foods containing vitamin D (e.g. egg yolks and cheese) can reduce the risk of weakening the pelvic floor muscles.
- Caffeinated beverages (e.g. coffee, tea, energy drinks) should be avoided as they can irritate the bladder, and lead to incontinence issues.
Dr Datta added: “Whilst topping up your diet (with oestrogen) can help maintain the integrity of the vulval mucosa and help lubricate the tissue, there’s no evidence to suggest that the vaginal muscles can be tightened by this alone.”
Pelvic floor exercises
For mild symptoms, pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, are a great way to strengthen the vaginal muscles safely.
While sitting, standing or lying in a comfortable position, tighten your pelvic floor muscles––which you use to control the flow of urine––for five seconds, and then relax for another five seconds. You can do these before, during and after pregnancy
Avoid holding your breath and tightening your buttocks, thighs, and abs during the exercises. Carry out three sets of eight to 10 exercises a day and as you build up strength, increase the contraction time to ten seconds.
Dr Datta said: “Just remember this may only prevent the muscle strength from deteriorating, with some limited improvement sent. If this doesn’t help, we would recommend you consult your gynaecologist to review and identify where the problem lies.”
A course of bladder training––waiting longer between feeling the need to urinate and passing urine–can also help urinary incontinence, combined with pelvic floor exercises.
“Yoga and Pilates also help to make your vagina tighter by encouraging you to focus on pelvic floor exercises during the workout,” added Dr Datta.
If you’re unable to contract your pelvic floor muscles, electrical stimulation may be recommended. This involves inserting a small probe into the vagina that stimulates electrical signals to the muscles. However, some find this technique uncomfortable or difficult, so it’s best to gain medical insight from a professional before use.
Women can also carry out pelvic floor exercises with the addition of a weighted vaginal cone. They are inserted like a tampon and strengthen vaginal muscles by causing them to contract around the device. Hold the cone for one minute twice a day and gradually increase this time to 15 minutes.
A study from 1998 found that pelvic floor exercises and cones were equally effective in the treatment of stress incontinence. Further research discovered that women experiencing urinary incontinence could experience positive long-term effects from carrying out pelvic floor exercises, with or without vaginal cones.
However, many circumstances would make this method unsuitable. For example, you should avoid this if you are pregnant, have a vaginal infection, have a history of miscarriage or have had a prolapse. Side effects may also include vaginal bleeding or vaginitis.
Instead of trying dangerous health trends, women who have experienced severe symptoms from looser vaginal muscles may benefit from undergoing vaginal rejuvenation, also known as Femilift. Using laser technology, this stimulates collagen growth within the vaginal wall and increases tightness. This relieves symptoms of urinary incontinence and improves sexual fulfilment.
“Some women may turn to home remedies out of fear that this treatment hurts, but it’s completely pain-free and has no side-effects,” Dr Tailor said. “It’s also very efficient, as it takes less than an hour and has no recovery time.
When a course of three treatments is carried out at four to six weekly intervals, the results can last up to two years.
Dr Tailor added: “There’s a myth that vaginas need to be extremely tight for sexual pleasure and aesthetic purposes. However, this is completely untrue and can actually cause several other problems, such as discomfort.
“But if weakened vaginal muscles are putting a strain on everyday activities or romantic relationships, speak with a healthcare professional to determine what the right treatment option is for you.”
Although visiting a doctor for such a personal issue may seem daunting, unreliable natural remedies could potentially aggravate the existing symptoms and lead to infections. It’s crucial to seek medical advice to determine the cause of your weak pelvic floors and find out how to effectively ease the symptoms safely.
Read our feature on natural remedies for vaginal dryness here.