Winter vaginas and wacky skin: the truth about what happens to your body in the autumn/winter

What really happens to your body when the weather cools? [Photo: Getty]
What really happens to your body when the weather cools? [Photo: Getty]

In the words of Jon Snow, ‘Winter is coming’.

While we know the onset of the colder months is going to guarantee an upping of our intake of pumpkin spiced lattes, the change in seasons could also have an impact on our bodies, particularly down there.

Yep, falling temps could mean women suffer from ‘winter vagina’, or intimate dryness due to the changing climate.

Mary Burke, a former NHS midwife and senior clinical nurse at the London Bridge Plastic Surgery & Aesthetic Clinic told The Sun that the colder months can cause women’s lady parts to enter ‘drought mode’.

Lower temperatures and “air conditioned” rooms have a drying effect on bodies, including the vagina, she warned.

Male bits don’t escape the effects of a change in season either.

We’ve all heard a man joke that his member is small because it’s chilly – something that can happen when the blood vessels constrict to keep the internal organs warm.

Well, the opposite is said to be true in the warmer months when men can experience the onset of ‘summer penis.’

The term ‘summer penis’ was coined by Tracy Moore of MEL Magazine, after stumbling across several examples of men claiming the warm weather was making their penis grow.

Step forward Reddit user Guillermo97 who went online to ask others if they experienced “bigger d*** in summer and smaller in winter”.

He said: “Anybody notices size fluctuation during the year? I know mine is bigger, I have better erections in the summer and I also tend to be more of a shower instead of a grower. In the winter, it is the exact contrary. Why is that? More heat = better blood flow?”

But some experts believe that a man’s chap only appears to change in size.

“The penis does not grow during the summer heatwave nor does it shrink during the winter,” explains Dr Preethi Daniel, Clinical Director at London Doctors Clinic. “The apparent variation in perception of size is simply your body trying to maintain an optimum temperature at all times. We call that thermoregulation.

“You may have noticed your crown jewels shrivel up when it is cold as the blood vessels on the surface of the skin contract to preserve heat and conversely it may be possible for the skin blood vessels to dilate (expand) to release heat. Much like what happens when you sweat from your forehead. But just as your forehead does not grow in the summer, neither does the penis.”

Whether or not ‘summer penis’ is actually a thing, there are plenty of other totally real changes your body goes through with the switch in seasons.

From feeling more miserable, to finding you need to pee more, here’s what can really happen to your body when the weather cools.

Your fertility

There are positives and negatives when it comes to your fertility in the colder months. Interestingly, according to consultant urologist Dr Rick Viney, of BMI Priory and Edgbaston hospitals in Birmingham sperm count and quality is much better in the winter months.

“The testicles prefer a cooler environment hence why we hang them between our legs,” he explains.

But it isn’t all positive news as libido is often lowest for men in the winter months.

“This probably reflects the fact that nature deliberately enhances fertility during times of plenty and reduces fertility during times of stress. The cold conditions could be considered just such a stressor,” Dr Viney explains.

“It may also be linked to reduced stimulation of the pineal gland, a structure sensitive to daylight that controls many of the body’s natural rhythms such as sleep.”

But the opposite could be true of women with several studies suggesting oestrogen levels are highest in the autumn months, which can have a knock on effect on libido.

Autumn/winter can play havoc with your sleep habits [Photo: Getty]
Autumn/winter can play havoc with your sleep habits [Photo: Getty]

Your sleep

As daylight hours become shorter and the darkness of the autumn and winter months creep in, you may notice that your sleep habits change. The decrease in the amount of daylight in the autumn and winter months influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle. So as we hurtle towards Christmas you may find yourself feeling sluggish or more tired than usual.

Hypersomnia, which is the opposite of insomnia, is also most common during the autumn months. In fact, during October, most people sleep about 2.7 hours more per day than they do in other months.

But the quality of your sleep will often not be as high during the autumn/winter months. Why? Because the shorter days equal less exposure to sunlight, and sunlight hitting your retinas helps maintain healthy circadian sleep rhythms.

Your skin

“The reason your skin can feel tight and dry in the winter is because of an increase in transepidermal water loss, which is water loss through the skin under non-sweating conditions,” explains dermatologist Dr Nicola Chiang, of The Beaumont Hospital.

“Low humidity and windy conditions in winter accelerate transepidermal water loss. When we turn on heating at home and in our car, the heat that we expose to the skin can also accelerate transepidermal water loss.”

To overcome this Dr Chiang recommends applying a moisturiser regularly (at least twice a day) on the skin. “A good moisturiser should contain both occlusive and humectant properties, and sometimes with added ingredients to repair the skin barrier such as ceramides and niacinamides (vitamin B). Occlusive agents provide a protective layer on the skin to block water loss.”

She also suggests reducing the heating in the house, having a humidifier in the room to add moisture in the air and drinking plenty of water to keep your body and skin hydrated.

Your heart

“As a cardiologist, I don’t look forward to the cold days of winter,” says consultant cardiologist Robin Northcote, from Ross Hall and King’s Park hospitals.

“Most of it is bad! Heart attacks are more common and admissions to hospital with heart failure increase.”

Northcote explains that the cold weather causes the blood to be more viscous and likely to clot, and the fact that we often exercise less doesn’t help either.

“Our diet changes in the autumn and winter months too,” Northcote continues. “We eat fattier, less healthy food, none of which is good for our heart or vascular system.” Lessons to be learned? “Keep exercising and don’t be tempted by ‘comfort foods’,” he says.

Colder weather = sore joints. But why? [Photo: Getty]
Colder weather = sore joints. But why? [Photo: Getty]

Your joints

Knees and hips feeling achier in the colder months? We feel you. While there is no concrete evidence about why cold or damp weather triggers joint pain, experts have some theories.

“Knees often feel achier in cold or damp weather. There are two trains of thought as to what causes this,” explains consultant orthopaedic surgeon Mr Gordon Shepard, of BMI Beaumont Hospital.

“Firstly, in cold weather the body conserves heat by moving more blood to the core means less blood in the muscles and tissues around the knee which leads to stiffness and as a result aching.

“Secondly, the drop in air pressure associated with cold and wet weather leads to an inflammatory response in the joints.”

One of the best things you can do to avoid joint pain is keep moving, advises Mr Bobby Anand, of Shirley Oaks Hospital.

But it’s vital to protect your joints before doing so.

“In winter the body often feels stiffer, so if you are doing sport it is important to make sure you warm up properly to avoid picking up sports injuries,” he advises.

“When it is cold the blood flow to muscles decrease, leaving muscles more prone to being injured. Warming up increases blood flow. The blood going to the muscles is like fuel for the muscles so this is very important in injury prevention.”

Your bladder

We now know the impact the colder months might have on your vagina but what about your bladder?

“You can sometimes get a more urgent feelings that you need to wee more frequently in winter,” explains Rono Mukherjee, consultant urological surgeon at South Cheshire Hospital.

“This is due to a sensitive or ‘overactive’ bladder that feels the urge to wee due to stimuli such as cold temperatures. Other stimuli include caffeine, and running water!”

Your mood can lower in the colder months [Photo: Getty]
Your mood can lower in the colder months [Photo: Getty]

Your mood

According to a study from The Weather Channel and YouGov up to 29% of the UK population suffer from some degree of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

It is thought that SAD often hits during the colder months because of less light exposure during the day.

“In winter reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression and the change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood,” explains, Isabel Leming, Senior Technician at mental health clinic Smart TMS.

To combat the meh feeling of SAD, Leming recommends upping your exercise intake. “Exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.”

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