We're always trying to get to the bottom of sexual health rumors, and one we've been hearing for a while really needs an investigation. This one has it that the size of a woman's vagina is related to how much sex she's had. The more time she spends in the bedroom, the rumor goes, the looser and wider her vagina will be.
So we took it to the experts, two experienced ob-gyns. First question: Is a “loose” vagina from sex even possible?
“Unless you are engaging in practices that are out of the ordinary, I would say absolutely not.” says Alyssa Dweck, MD, ob-gyn in Westchester, New York and co-author of The Complete A to Z for Your V. “The vagina is an incredibly forgiving area, very rich in nerves and blood supply . . . so traditional penile-vaginal intercourse isn’t going to cause any permanent stretching, although things stretch at the time of course,” Dweck tells Health.
Here's what she means by that. When you’re aroused, your vagina becomes naturally lubricated, and it expands and widens in order to accommodate a penis. But this all reverses once the arousal state and the sex is over, says Dr. Dweck. “The vagina is more of a potential state. The opening can be created, but you don't walk around with a gaping vagina just because you've been having sex,” she explains.
There is one exception to this, according to Dr. Dweck. After the first few times you have sex, your vaginal opening will be more open because odds are it was previously covered by the hymen, the thin membrane of tissue covering the vaginal opening all women are born with. But this isn't a given, especially since the hymen could have been broken earlier, say by using tampons or even playing sports. And even without the hymen, the vaginal canal doesn't become bigger, she adds.
So if sex doesn't have a loosening effect on the vagina, what does, if anything? Having a baby via a vaginal delivery. Childbirth can permanently stretch the vaginal canal and opening, especially if an instrument like forceps or a vacuum is used during a delivery.
“A 10-pound baby could pass through the vagina, and although things may not go back to 100% the same after that, they sure go back to almost normal,” says Dr. Dweck. A woman who has a huge laceration during delivery or a large episiotomy is less likely to return to her pre-baby size and feel, however.
Dr. Sherry A. Ross, MD, ob-gyn at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Southern California and author of She-ology, says a well-endowed partner can also make things looser—but only at the vaginal opening, not throughout the vagina itself. But even that loosening isn't all that substantial or noticeable. “Your vagina accommodates a penis fairly well,” says Dr. Ross. “I mean to really stretch out the vagina, you need a baby coming through it.”
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The size of your vagina—whether it's been widened thanks to childbirth or a partner with a large penis—isn't something that necessarily remains the same your entire life. Once a woman goes through menopause, explains Dr. Ross, the vaginal entrance can shrink and become tighter if she is not having sex as frequently as she did before. Dr. Dweck attributes this tightening to the decreased estrogen production that happens after menopause.
What about all the jokes guys make about having sex with a woman who is loose down below? Don't believe them—it's unlikely that a man can really notice the difference. “I think guys can tell when a woman is a virgin, and they can probably tell if someone's had two babies or have had a vaginal birth," says Dr. Ross. "But I don’t think they're really going to notice much of a difference . . . unless a guy has a really small penis.”
This Story Originally Appeared On Health