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What affects vaginal health?
Unprotected sex. You might contract a sexually transmitted infection if you have unprotected sex. Aggressive sex or pelvic fracture. Forceful sex or an injury to the pelvic area can result in vaginal trauma.
Certain health conditions. Diabetes and Sjogren's syndrome — an autoimmune disorder — can cause vaginal dryness.
Medications and feminine-hygiene products. Prolonged use of antibiotics increases the risk of a vaginal yeast infection. Certain antihistamines can cause vaginal dryness. Superabsorbent tampons can lead to toxic shock syndrome — a rare, life-threatening complication of a bacterial infection.
Birth control products. Spermicide and NuvaRing (vaginal ring) can cause vaginal irritation. Using a diaphragm or contraceptive sponge might pose a risk of toxic shock syndrome.
Pregnancy and childbirth. If you become pregnant, you'll stop menstruating until after your baby is born. During pregnancy, vaginal discharge often increases. Vaginal tears are relatively common during childbirth.
In some cases, an episiotomy — an incision made in the tissue between the vaginal opening and anus during childbirth — is needed. A vaginal delivery can also decrease muscle tone in the vagina.
Psychological issues. Anxiety and depression can contribute to a low level of arousal and resulting discomfort or pain during sex. Trauma — such as sexual abuse or an initial painful sexual experience — also can lead to pain associated with sex.
Getting older. The vagina loses elasticity after menopause — the end of menstruation and fertility.
Hormone levels. Changes in your hormone levels can affect your vagina. For example, estrogen production declines after menopause, after childbirth and during breast-feeding. Loss of estrogen can cause the vaginal lining to thin (vaginal atrophy) — making sex painful.