Of all the annoying myths about women’s sexuality that have come and gone over the years — women just don’t like sex as much as men do; women are more suited for monogamy than men are; women don’t masturbate or watch porn — one of the most stubbornly persistent has been the myth that your vagina can become loose from too much sex (or conversely, tight from a lack thereof).

But the myth is just that — a myth, says Karen Boyle, a Baltimore-based board-certified urologic surgeon and executive director of reproductive medicine and surgery at Chesapeake Urology Associates.

Your vaginal muscles are elastic and have the ability to stretch and then snap back after sex, she explains. When you’re aroused, your body releases nitric oxide, which increases blood flow to your vagina and cervix. In addition to making you feel sensitive all over, that increased blood flow also triggers vaginal lubrication. The extra lubrication might make you feel a little looser, but it’s really more akin to your muscles relaxing, say when you get a massage. No matter how much sex you have, whether it’s with a partner or a solo sesh, your vagina will not permanently loosen.

Same goes for the idea that your vagina is tighter after not having sex, Dr. Boyle says. If you feel tight after a long dry spell, it’s more likely due to a lack of vaginal lubricant or arousal than anything else.

However, it is possible for your vagina to loosen over time, according to Dr. Boyle, but it won’t be due to sex. Like the rest of your body, your vagina does age, and as your estrogen levels drop, your vaginal tissue thins and the muscle atrophies, which can lessen its ability to contract and tighten.

Another physical change that can possibly change how loose or tight your vaginal muscles feel: childbirth. Why? There are a few factors that play into it — genetics, the size of your baby, how often you do kegels, and how many times you’ve delivered vaginally all play a role. Some women, especially those who’ve delivered multiple times, do experience a permanent laxity or looseness, according to Dr. Boyle. “It’s all from the muscles stretching and pulling apart and then not contracting back completely.” Before you panic, know that it’s most likely that your vagina will rebound completely six to 12 months after giving birth. “It’s amazing how responsive and adaptive the vagina is,” Dr. Boyle says.

Lastly, significant weight gain can also change the “integrity of your vagina” by putting pressure on your pelvic floor.

If you’re worried about vaginal looseness, you can strengthen your pelvic floor by doing regular kegels. They’re incredibly easy, and you don’t need any equipment: simply squeeze your pelvic floor muscles and hold for a few seconds, then relax. A good way to check that you’re doing them correctly is to try while you’re peeing — if you can stop your flow of urine, you’re in tip-top shape. (Bonus: working out your pelvic floor will also strengthen your pubococcygeus muscle, which can mean better orgasms).

But sex will not stretch out your vagina, Dr. Boyle stresses. “It’s healthy and wonderful for women to have sex… and the negativity surrounding women who enjoy an active and fulfilling sex life is what’s shameful,” she says.

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Alanna is a freelance writer and editor living in Brooklyn. She's written for Shape, Fitness, Cosmopolitan, Reader's Digest, Vivala.com, and more, and mostly spends her time now searching for the perfect coffee shop, writing about all things health and wellness, taking photos of her dog, and trying (and failing) to become a dedicated runner. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.