When you think about the effects of aging, you probably envision crow’s feet, a slowed metabolism, and maybe the dreaded hot flashes that many a menopausal woman has bemoaned. Lower on that list—for me at least—is the possibility that along with my chin and boobs, my vagina could actually start to sag one day. Ah, Mother Nature—she can be a blessing and a bitch.
“As women age, our vaginal tissues become thinner and more atrophic,” says gynecological surgeon Dr. Prudence Hall, founder of the Santa Monica-based regenerative medicine clinic The Hall Center. “Youthful vaginal tissue is elastic and pliable to accommodate childbirth, allowing for easy and painless intercourse, whereas with aging—or postpartum—vaginal tissue, the vagina can become dry and stretched out, creating less sexual sensitivity and real discomfort for women.”
Sounds deeply unappealing, right? If you’re in your twenties, you might be thinking, “But I have decades until this will happen to me.” And you might be right—though if you’re on birth control, your estrogen levels drop just like they do during menopause, which can cause similar symptoms of dryness, pain during sex and low levels of good bacteria (read: a higher chance of getting infections down there). If that’s your situation, you can consider going off the pill, which is simple enough.
If, however, you’re like some of the women dealing with these symptoms who have no easy solution, it makes sense that you’d consider something a little more extreme. Enter vaginal rejuvenation treatments like Femilift, a procedure that uses laser technology to heat vaginal tissue and stimulate the formation of new collagen to help treat discomfort and pain, whether it’s from aging, childbirth, or anything else.
I spoke to Brooklyn-based gynecologist Dr. Amir Marashi, who has performed the procedure (which was FDA-approved in 2008 and has been gaining popularity in last few years), to find out more about how it works. “Femilift involves a probe with tiny lasers that create 81 tiny, superficial holes in the vagina, kind of like microneedling,” he says. “Anytime you pierce your body, it immediately causes more blood to surge to that area and will spur collagen production.” There’s no anesthesia or downtime needed to recover, making it fairly convenient for busy women.
I wanted to find out what types of patients have received Femilift, and it turns out they’re not all older women. One woman, Ashley, is a 33-year-old mom of one who got the treatment after giving birth. After three sessions, she reported feeling tighter, having less trouble with incontinence, and experiencing more pleasure during sex again.
That’s all well and good, but I still felt a little dubious. Are 81 laser holes really the best way to go about dealing with vaginal troubles? Isn’t there a more natural way? In some cases, yes, says Hall, who has successfully treated dryness and atrophying tissue with safe, natural hormones. But in other cases, more extreme measures are warranted, she says—particularly with the case of vaginal laxity (meaning diminished sensitivity and looseness of vaginal walls).
“Vaginal laxity has traditionally only been approached with surgery,” says Hall. “Surgical reconstruction brings the muscles of the pelvic floor together to create a tighter vagina, but it doesn’t address the quality of the vaginal tissue. At first I was skeptical about the use of lasers to spur collagen production, but with many patients undergoing treatments, I’ve been delighted to hear their positive comments: more vaginal moisture, tightness, and more pleasurable sex. This is certainly a safer and less invasive place to begin, rather than immediately opting for surgical vaginal reconstruction.”
Well, there you have it, ladies—even if this isn’t something you’re dealing with now, it’s good to know about, and feel free to pass this along to your mom, your friend who recently had a baby, or any other woman you know who might benefit from learning more about ways to address vaginal discomfort. Information is power (and, in this case, pleasure!).