A female reader submitted the following question:
“If a woman does not have intercourse over a long period of time, is it possible for her hymen to grow back and make her a virgin again?”
Thanks for asking this question. There are a surprising number of myths and misconceptions about the hymen, so before I answer your specific question, let’s first step back and talk about what the hymen actually is. The hymen is a small, circular piece of tissue that partially covers the vaginal opening; however, it can vary dramatically in both size and appearance across persons. In fact, some journal articles have described as many as seven distinct types of hymens ! For instance, some have a rounded appearance with an opening in the center (an annular hymen). In others, a thin strip of tissue runs down the middle of the hymen’s opening, dividing it into two (a septated hymen). Yet others may have multiple small holes (a cribiform hymen), and in very rare cases, there is no hole at all (an imperforate hymen). Imperforate hymens need to be corrected surgically because, not only does it make vaginal intercourse impossible, menstrual blood will be unable able to exit the body.
Many people are under the impression that the hymen always remains intact until the first time a woman has vaginal intercourse, but this is not necessarily the case. In fact, hymens can wear away long before that for multiple reasons, including but not limited to masturbation practices and athletic activities. The fact that some hymens are thinner and more yielding than others obviously plays a big role too.
Consider this: in a study that involved medical examinations of the hymens of female virgins, doctors were only certain that the hymen was intact in 57% of the cases . This tell us that, for a lot of women, despite the fact that they’ve never had intercourse, they don’t have a visible hymen. This is probably why it isn't uncommon for a woman to not notice any kind of rupturing of the hymen or bleeding the very first time she has sex. In light of this, it would be well-advised for women and their partners to stop expecting that there will be some type of obvious physical sign of virginity loss during a woman's first sexual experience.
With that said, let me address your specific question: is it possible for the hymen to grow back if it has worn away or ruptured? The answer is that it is highly, highly unlikely and, if it happened, it would be a medical anomaly. In fact, I’ve only ever read about one case in which this occurred, which involved a Taiwanese women who was discovered to have an imperforate hymen as a teenager . After being corrected surgically, her hymen grew back, so it was corrected again. Several years later and after getting married, she showed up at the hospital ready to give birth and doctors discovered that her hymen had regrown yet again, necessitating a third hymenectomy! Again, I have never heard of any other cases like this, so this is not something any woman should expect to happen—I only mention it because, when it comes to human sexuality, it seems that almost nothing is impossible! (Case in point: read about men with 2 penises and women with 2 vaginas here)
Also, if it were common for the hymen to regenerate, then hymenoplasties (i.e., surgical restoration of the hymen) would not be sought in increasing numbers. You can read more about this so-called “revirginization” practice and why some women pursue it here.
In short, no, a hymen will generally not regrow on its own, no matter how long a woman waits before having sex again. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a hymen isn’t even a perfectly reliable indicator of female virginity in the first place.
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 Stukus, K. S., & Zuckerbraun, N. S. (2009). Review of the prepubertal gynecologic examination: Techniques and anatomic variation. Clinical Pediatric Emergency Medicine, 10(1), 3-9
 Underhill, R.A., & Dewhurst, J. (1978). The doctor cannot always tell: Medical examination of the “intact” hymen. The Lancet, 311(8060), 375-376.
 Chao‐Hsi, L., & Ching‐Chung, L. (2002). Hymen re‐formation after hymenotomy associated with pregnancy. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 42(5), 559-560.
Image Credit: 123RF.com
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