It’s not something most women look forward to, but menopause is not a disease without a cure or an illness you’re forced to suffer through. It’s a transition that’s essentially unstoppable, as your body moves from one phase of life to another. In the simplest of terms, menopause is the ceasing of menstruation. For many women, it’s also the beginning of a whole new adventure -- life without monthly hormonal swings and messy periods.
When not surgically induced, menopause is a natural process that starts, on average, in your 40s and ends by about age 51. You’ve reached the official menopause mile-marker once you’ve gone 12 months without experiencing a period.
Menopause, along with the natural aging process accompanying it, does create physical and sometimes emotional changes that can alter your sex life. We can help uncover the truths about these changes and explain what you can do to overcome challenges you might face during this newest phase in your journey.
Myth: Menopause ends your desire for sex
The facts: Many women do report decreased sexual desire (libido) with menopause and the perimenopausal period leading up to it. Some women, however, report an increased libido while others report no change in their desire for sex.
Because libido is a complicated issue that’s both physical and psychological, these differences are likely due to several factors.
You may, for instance, find sex is the last thing on your mind when you’re experiencing hot flashes that leave you drenched, mood swings that remind you of puberty, and unexplained weight gain that makes your pajamas tighter than they ought to be.
But many women breeze through perimenopause to menopause with few problems (no fair hating) and simply don’t experience the hot flashes, mood swings, and other symptoms that make sexual desire a distant memory for some.
The good news is, you don’t have to accept loss of libido as a normal part of menopause. If your desire for sex is low (maybe nonexistent), and you’d like a change, we can help with treatment that may include home remedies, over-the-counter aids, and prescription medicine, when necessary.
We can also help you work through the emotional aspects of menopause and the aging process itself. Depending on your circumstance, we may refer you for counseling and/or prescribe antidepressants, which are also known to decrease the hot flashes associated with menopause.
Myth: Menopause ends sexual pleasure
The facts: Menopause does bring certain changes that can negatively impact the physical aspect of sex, including:
- Decreased testosterone and estrogen levels, which may make it more difficult for you to become sexually aroused
- Loss of natural vaginal lubrication due to decreased estrogen production, which can make sexual intercourse painful
- Vaginal atrophy (thinning of the vaginal wall) due to declining estrogen production, which may cause discomfort during sexual intercourse as well as urinary incontinence, vaginal infections, and other troublesome conditions
Fortunately, many effective treatments exist that can help restore your vaginal health, improve arousal, and increase your sexual pleasure.
We may recommend:
- A vaginal lubricant to ease dryness and discomfort during sexual intercourse
- Estrogen applied to the vaginal area via cream, suppositories, or a vaginal ring, to help repair and rebuild tissue
- Hormone replacement therapy to treat various symptoms associated with menopause, including the physical changes in your vaginal area
Interestingly, once we’ve eliminated your physical discomfort, regular vaginal sexual activity may help as well, since it increases blood flow to your vagina, keeps your vaginal muscles toned, and helps maintain vaginal elasticity.
Myth: There’s no way to spice up your sex life after menopause
The facts: Many women find menopause the perfect time to try new ways of expressing their sensuality and sexuality with a loving, trusted partner. All those years you’ve spent learning and growing as a woman can give you the courage to ask for the touch you enjoy or explore a sexual position you’ve always fantasized about.
As your children get older and spend more time away from the nest, you may even find it enjoyable to have sex in the dining room, in front of the fireplace in the living room, or on that cozy backyard porch swing. When your kids are out, just being able to leave the bedroom door open for a change may add the right amount of spice to your sex life.