The age-old question of whether or not size matters is typically directed at men, but this is a somewhat hidden concern for women as well.
Though they might not talk about it, some women may worry about the size of their vagina and how it affects sexual pleasure, particularly after having a baby. Not a lot of research has been done in this area and because there are so many variables at play in women’s sexuality it is difficult to tell if vagina size and sexual pleasure are linked.
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“Our ability to understand size as it relates to sexual function is poorly understood,” Christopher Tarnay, MD, director of the division of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at the UCLA Medical Center, tells WebMD. “But in the last 10 to 15 years, there has been a lot more attention paid to the field of sexual medicine.”
Accommodating and Changeable
The vagina is a very “elastic” organ, says Christine O’Connor, MD, director of adolescent gynecology and well women care at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. It is small enough to hold a tampon in place, but can expand enough to pass a child through. This is because the walls of the vagina are similar to those of the stomach, they have rugae, meaning they fold together to collapse when unused, then expand when necessary.
“It doesn’t stay one particular size,” O’Connor says. “It changes to accommodate whatever is going on at that time.”
The most commonly used measurements regarding the size of vaginas come from Masters and Johnson’s work from the 1960s. They looked at 100 women who had never been pregnant and found that vagina lengths, unstimulated, range from 2.75 inches to about 3¼ inches. When a woman is aroused, it increased to 4.25 inches to 4.75 inches. Regardless of how long the vagina is, the area that is thought to be important for most women’s sexual response is the outer one-third.
So how does length relate to sexual satisfaction? No one seems to know for sure.
Tarnay says the main issues he sees women have is discomfort during sex. This typically occurs if the vagina is too short or tight or they have a prolapse, where the uterus, bladder, or other organs fall out of place, typically after childbirth.
“It probably doesn’t matter,” Tarnay says. “There is such a wide range of normal, one can be completely assured that in the absence of prolapse, length has no impact on sexual satisfaction.”
What may make a difference, Tarnay says, is what he calls the genital hiatus -- the vaginal opening. The complaints he hears from his patients are typically after childbirth.
“Women will come in describing a change in sexual function and say it feels loose and they feel less satisfied,” he says. “But just having a baby changes the sexual experience, so it may not have to do with the changes in the vaginal opening.”