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This Is What Happens To Your Vagina When You Stop Having Sex

Don’t be surprised if things feel different next time you get it on.

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When you stop having sex, for whatever reason, there are several things that can happen to your mind and body. From a mental perspective, you might go through some mood changes or feel less connected to your partner, if you have one. And on the physical side, there are actually some surprising things that can happen to your vagina when you stop having sex. It’s only natural that if you do have a period of abstinence, you might face some nagging questions, including the big one: Does sex hurt after not having it for a while?

You might already know that having a healthy, happy sex life means a boost to your immune system, cuts to your stress levels, lower blood pressure, and a lowered risk of heart attack. And sex can even count as exercise — depending on what you put into it, that is. When you stop having sex, not only do you lose all of those benefits, but you might even gain some negative side effects. (Of course, that’s no reason to stop your celibacy period if it’s what you’re happy with right now!)

It's natural to go through an occasional dry spell once in a while, whether you're choosing to be celibate, lack a partner, feel a decline in desire, or any other personal reason. But if you're not having sex, you should know how your vagina might be affected and what not having sex could mean for your body once you start having sex again.

1

You might have painful intercourse

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There are quite a few different reasons why sex might be painful. In general, it shouldn’t be — and if it is, that’s an indication that something could be going on. That being said, it’s not uncommon to experience some discomfort when returning to sex after being away for a while. “It would mostly be due to a lack of lubrication and in some cases anxiety,” Dr. Sheryl A. Ross, OB-GYN, tells Romper. The combination of vaginal dryness, mixed with potential mental apprehension and nervousness, is the most common reason for pain in this case. If it does start to hurt, stop. Consider trying again another time and using more foreplay and some bottled lube.

2

You might have trouble reaching orgasm

If you take a long break from sex, you might have a harder time reaching orgasm once you resume. This is mostly due to mental factors. As Ross explains, if someone hasn’t been sexually active for a while, they may be anxious about how sex will feel again. This anxiety can lead to psychological barriers that make it difficult or impossible to orgasm or even just enjoy yourself during sex. If this does happen to you, avoid rushing yourself back into sex. Wait until you are ready and excited to do it again — and be patient with yourself.

3

Your vaginal walls may weaken

Your vaginal walls may weaken if you stop having sex, especially as you get older. “The walls of a vagina naturally weaken over time, especially after women give birth and enter menopause,” Ross says. And while this process is inevitable on some level, like any muscle, use makes it stronger. In this case, regular frequency of sex is one of the activities that strengthens your vaginal walls.

4

You may experience vaginismus

A condition called vaginismus can happen when the vaginal muscles get so contracted that penetration — even with a tampon or a finger — is impossible because of how painful it is. Vaginismus is thought to be linked to anxiety, Ross says, although the medical community still isn’t completely sure why vaginismus happens. Although it is quite rare — a 2020 study published in JBRA Assisted Reproduction estimates up to 1-6% of people with vaginas experience vaginismus — it definitely could come as a result of being abstinent for a bit and having anxiety about having sex again. If you develop this condition after not having sex for a while, or for any other reason, you should seek professional help.

5

You may have more PMS

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One unfortunate side effect of not having sex for a while is that you may actually begin to see changes in your premenstrual symptoms. This is especially true if you are abstaining from all types of sex, including masturbation. Orgasms have a positive effect on the body and can relieve pain and tension by releasing endorphins, so if you're not having any, but previously were, you may experience worsening PMS. That being said, if you notice drastic changes in your premenstrual symptoms, Ross recommends you should visit a doctor, as it likely is due to something else entirely.

6

You might have less lubrication

As previously mentioned, people with vulvas can have a difficult time getting lubricated when they start having intercourse again, according to Ross. This is especially challenging as you get older because the lessening of hormones such as estrogen leads to less vaginal lubrication anyway. And with less lubrication, you are more likely to feel pain during intercourse. Keeping things active down there, such as getting turned on from self-pleasure, erotica, porn, or a partner, will help keep things lubricated even if you aren’t having sex. As a side note, even if you don’t typically engage in any form of penetrative sex, a lack of lubrication can still be uncomfortable, as vaginal dryness can make it uncomfortable to sit, stand, exercise, or even urinate in some cases.

7

You might bleed

While blood can be a bit alarming, a little bit of spotting shouldn’t make you sound the alarm right away, especially if it’s a small amount. “It’s not uncommon to experience bleeding after the first time returning to sex after a long time,” says Ross. “It isn’t a reason to panic right away, but if it persists, consult your gynecological care provider.” If it’s painful or if bleeding continues every time you have sex, though, stop and schedule a time to talk to a medical expert.

All in all, it’s important to note that these are potential outcomes after not having sex for a while. Not everyone will have the same experience. One person might feel some pain after a dry spell due to literal dryness (lack of lubrication) and another might feel no difference with sex as before. As with anything related to your vagina and sexual activity, it never hurts to discuss any questions you might have or problems you’re facing with a health care provider, be it an OB-GYN, pelvic floor specialist, or sex therapist.

Study referenced:

Anğın, A. D., Gün, İ., Sakin, Ö., Çıkman, M. S., Eserdağ, S., & Anğın, P. (2020). Effects of predisposing factors on the success and treatment period in vaginismus. JBRA assisted reproduction, 24(2), 180–188. https://doi.org/10.5935/1518-0557.20200018

Expert:

Dr. Sheryl A. Ross, OB-GYN

This article was originally published on