Throughout a woman’s lifetime, certain experiences like puberty, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause can result in vaginal changes. And these changes can often feel as if the vaginal canal has tightened.
The feeling of tightness can manifest when inserting a tampon, while undergoing a smear test, or during sexual penetration. That said, treatment options can make it feel looser, so if your vagina feels tight, keep reading to find out what you can do about it.
Symptoms of a Tight Vagina
The following symptoms are typically associated with the sensation of a tight vagina:
- Anxiety surrounding vaginal penetration
- Discomfort when inserting a tampon
- Vaginal dryness
- A smear test feels almost impossible
- Pain during intercourse
What Causes a Tight Vagina?
Although a vagina can certainly feel tight during different stages of life due to menstruation, childbirth, pregnancy, or menopause; a vagina rarely tightens in the physical sense. Essentially, the sensation of tightness is, often, linked to one of the following:
- Lack of sexual arousal or natural lubrication
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Underlying vaginal conditions
- Childbirth & Breastfeeding
- Cancer Medication & Radiation treatment
Read on for more understanding about each, as well as what treatment options will help.
Lack of Sexual Arousal or Natural Lubrication
When women feel sexually aroused, natural lubrication occurs and the vaginal canal typically lengthens so that the cervix has room to lift marginally, allowing more room for comfortable penetration and an enjoyable sexual experience.
When not sexually aroused, a woman’s vagina only measures approximately 3-4 inches long and the production of lubrication is minimal. If sex is attempted when a woman doesn’t feel sexually stimulated, the vagina will feel tight & dry and penetration or thrusting can end up damaging the vaginal lining.
This, in turn, leads to women thinking they have a tight vagina and avoiding sex for fear of embarrassment or pain.
How to Treat Lack of Sexual Arousal in Women
If you are experiencing the sensation of a tight vagina during intercourse, try spending more time on foreplay and use plenty of lubrication to prepare for penetration.
If things don’t improve, and the vagina still feels tight, refer to the section below titled Hormonal Fluctuations to understand how hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause can affect the vagina.
Women experience many hormonal fluctuations during life, many of which result in a feeling of tightness in the vagina. Beginning with the first menstrual cycle and ending once menopause is reached and menstruation no longer occurs, these hormonal fluctuations are mild and manageable for some but more noticeable and severe for others.
During the childbearing years, for example, estrogen and progesterone drop on the first day of monthly menstruation. Hormone levels rise again during ovulation, resulting in a more lubricated and flexible vagina.
However, once ovulation is completed, hormone levels typically fall again, lessening the production of lubrication and resulting in a dryer vaginal canal. At this time of the month, many women experience what they describe as a tight vagina.
Pregnancy ushers in more hormonal changes as the uterus enlarges and the vaginal canal prepares for childbirth. And women in the last trimester of pregnancy often report feeling the sensation of pressure or tightness in the vagina.
This is due to the enlarged uterus putting extra pressure on the vaginal canal by pushing against it. That said, many women also feel more lubricated down there during the last trimester of pregnancy. So it is not a rule that applies to all.
The biggest impact of hormonal fluctuations on the vagina is probably felt during perimenopause and menopause, however. This is the time of life when estrogen levels begin to drop incrementally, and menstrual cycles become more sporadic before finally stopping.
The lower levels of estrogen also result in reduced amounts of natural lubrication as well as thinner vaginal walls that become less flexible – both of which contribute to vaginal dryness and lead to menopausal women feeling like their vagina is too tight.
How to Treat Hormonal Fluctuations Associated with a Tight Vagina
While some women manage to successfully ride the wave of hormonal fluctuations during PMS, menstruation, perimenopause, and menopause, some reputable natural treatment options are available for those seeking help.
Chasteberry, also known as Vitex, is a natural remedy that has been used to treat female reproductive conditions since ancient civilizations, and it is now available in supplement form.
Although not recommended during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, Chastberry is known to soothe symptoms associated with hormonal fluctuations during PMS and menopause.
According to studies, Chasteberry significantly reduces painful breasts, cramping, mood swings, and acne during PMS. For women of menopausal age, a Vitex supplement may help minimize hot flashes, improves mood swings, and helps in treating vaginal dryness to relieve the feeling of a tight vagina.
Underlying Vaginal & Pelvic Floor Muscle Conditions
When it comes to vaginal tightness, underlying conditions that affect the female genitals are often the culprits. For example, dyspareunia, sexually transmitted infections, vaginismus, and yeast infections are the most common conditions known to cause symptoms that result in the feeling of a tight vagina.
Dyspareunia is a medical term used to describe pain during sex. The cause of the pain is typically due to vaginal dryness (atrophy), pain or tightness in the vagina associated with tight pelvic floor muscles (vaginismus), or an irritated vulva (vulvodynia or vulvar vestibulitis).
Additional conditions that can cause dyspareunia are endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Treating dyspareunia will depend on what caused it in the first place. If it is the result of an underlying condition, then that will be treated with medication. Once the underlying condition is treated, vaginal dilators help to gently relax any tightness in the vaginal canal or pelvic floor muscles.
Vaginismus is described as an involuntary tightening or spasming of the pelvic floor muscles at the prospect of something entering such as a penis, tampon, or gynecological instrument.
Even though the exact cause of vaginismus remains unknown, medical experts believe that a psychological fear of sex or vaginal penetration is linked to this type of involuntary spasming.
Treatment for vaginismus includes pelvic floor physical therapy to relax tense pelvic muscles and using vaginal dilators at home to gradually relax tight vaginal muscles.
Manual therapy, exercise, and biofeedback are often utilized to help manage and address pelvic floor muscle conditions associated with vaginismus. Speaking with a counselor or sex therapist is also advised to work through any previous sexual experiences or lack of sexual education that might be hindering your enjoyment of intercourse.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
The most common STIs, chlamydia & gonorrhea, can also be responsible for what feels like a tight vagina. Symptoms include pain or burning while peeing, itching, swelling, and abnormal vaginal discharge, so it’s not surprising that women feel tightness in the genitals if they have contracted an STI.
Treatment for STIs usually involves medication prescribed by a doctor. And it’s important to treat an STI as soon as possible to avoid any serious complications like ectopic pregnancies, infertility, or pelvic inflammatory disease. To avoid STIs, it’s imperative to use condoms with any new partners until they have been tested.
Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of harmful fungi in the vagina resulting in a frequent urge to pee, itching, and swelling of the genitals, which can make the vagina feel tight.
The bad news is that yeast infections are incredibly common, affecting over 75% of women more than once in life. However, the good news is, yeast infections are easy to treat with over-the-counter antifungal medication.
Although the antifungal medication required to treat a yeast infection can be purchased over the counter, it is always best to consult with a doctor for a correct diagnosis. This is because symptoms of a yeast infection can be uncannily similar to the symptoms of some STIs.
For women who are prone to frequently recurring yeast infections, a natural supplement called Boric Balance is highly recommended.
Childbirth & Breastfeeding
During the process of childbirth, the vagina expands to allow for delivery and then contracts back to its normal size in the months following. As the vagina returns to its usual size, some women can experience a feeling of vaginal tightness.
As well as that, women often suffer from vaginal tearing during delivery, which can manifest in a feeling of tightness as it heals.
Women who breastfeed after childbirth are also known to experience vaginal tightness or dryness (atrophy) due to the typically low levels of estrogen caused by breastfeeding.
Treating a Tight Vagina After Childbirth & Breastfeeding
The good news is, time heals when it comes to recovering from childbirth and breastfeeding, so be patient with your body. Vaginal changes and hormonal fluctuations are temporary, however, it can be helpful to use vaginal moisturizers or topical estrogen creams to restore lubrication and elasticity to the vaginal walls after giving birth and breastfeeding.
Cancer Medication & Radiation Treatment
Women receiving treatment for breast cancer or ovarian cancer are typically prescribed estrogen-blocker therapies to reduce estrogen levels. However, this type of medication can also make the vagina feel tight. Female cancer patients who undergo radiation treatment in the pelvic area can also sense a feeling of vaginal tightness due to vaginal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the vaginal canal.
Pelvic floor physical therapy and the continued use of vaginal dilators at home are highly recommended for women who have undergone these types of cancer treatments. In fact, physical therapists insist that both should be part of the standard recovery care program to re-strengthen the pelvic floor and vaginal muscles, as well as encourage a return to sexual pleasure.
Although women will sometimes experience temporary swelling, irritation, tightness, dryness, or lack of elasticity within the vagina, the feeling of a tight vagina is rarely permanent.
Underlying conditions such as vaginismus and yeast infections, as well as vaginal dryness during hormone fluctuations or a lack of sexual arousal before penetration can each result in the sensation of a tight vagina. That said, with treatment, patience, and time, the vagina will return to its normal state.
If you feel that your vagina is too tight to insert a tampon, have a gynecological exam, or enjoy sex, consult with your doctor to rule out any of the above-mentioned conditions or circumstances that could be causing it.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.