The Physiology Of Sex After Menopause
You might be familiar with the stereotype of menopausal women portrayed in the mediacrotchety, dried-up, and sexless after menopause. And yeah, your body is changing and this change comes with side effects, but you dont suddenly have a vagina-less Barbie body. Sex is still a basic part of your human experience and you can still enjoy it.
However, its best to just come out and say it: menopause will change your sex life. There are several reasons why:
- Vaginal atrophy. During menopause your body halts estrogen production. A decrease in estrogen can lead to vaginal atrophy, which the Mayo Clinic defines as thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal walls. While that sounds scary, dont worry, there are treatments available. But before we go further its important to note that vaginal atrophy doesnt just affect your vaginal canal. It can also come with symptoms like recurring UTIs, burning when you urinate, and an urgency to urinate. In short, vaginal atrophy affects everything about your vulva, and not just the parts you use for sex. Its normal, and you shouldnt be embarrassed or ashamed. Most menopausal people have some of these issues!
Sex After Menopause Is Possible And Encouraged
Female sexual dysfunction is more common than you might think. Several surveys show that approximately 43 percent of American women have some form of sexual dysfunction, from low desire to painful intercourse.
In postmenopausal women, several factors can contribute to a less-than-fulfilling sex life. Declining estrogen levels associated with menopause can lead to a decreased arousal. The testosterone so vital to the male libido is also present in women the gradual decline in testosterone levels from age 30 onward may affect the female libido. And vaginal dryness – common in post-menopausal women – can make intercourse painful, not to mention all the stresses of midlife.
Before medical school, I helped organize a support group of mothers with young children who met to discuss medical topics of interest to women. I chose the topic of menopause and that turned out to be the turning point in my life. At nearly 30 years of age, I returned to school to obtain a medical degree. In those years, women were not really included in making decisions regarding their health care the style then was for physicians to tell patients what to do. I saw entering the medical profession as a way to change healthcare to a more collaborative model.
Body Image And Menopause
Some of the things that may contribute to your body image around menopause include:
- social attitudes Western culture rarely portrays older women as sexual or desirable. These ingrained social attitudes may make you feel less attractive. Some women wrongly believe that sex is only for young people. If you feel this way, it may cause your sexual interest and activity to wane
- possible weight gain you may find your body fat increases at this time, especially around your abdomen. This is due to hormonal changes and other age-related factors
- changes to body hair growth.
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Dont Be Afraid To Reach Out
I firmly believe that half the responsibility for that lies with the . You’re in this together.MrsFrankDrebin
Communication is key, so whether its your partner, a friend or even your GP, its important to have someone to turn to when you need it most. When it comes to sex, you should never feel pressured into doing anything you’re not comfortable with.
How To Have Great Sex After Menopause
Menopause can do a number on your sex life. These 6 gyno-backed solutions will keep things super pleasurable.
Menopause and sex dont always go hand in hand. Whys that? After menopause, a womans ovaries stop making estrogen, the main female sex hormone. This can be a tough adjustment, because estrogen is responsible for so many bodily functions, from bone health to steady moods to lower levels of bad cholesterol.
But the hardest change many women deal with has to do with the vagina. Estrogen keeps the vaginal lining elastic and moisturized, and it also helps power your libido. Without estrogen, vaginal tissues atrophy, dryness sets in, and arousal is more difficult. When you do have penetrative sex, it can hurt and even cause tearing inside the vagina.
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I see women whove gone years being told that a normal part of aging is to have pain with sex, says ob-gyn Lisa M. Valle, DO, medical director of Oasis Womens Sexual Function Center in Santa Monica, California. By the time they come see me, thats what I hear. The fact is, theres a lot you can do.
Not all women experience painful sex after menopause. Without the fear of pregnancy, some women say theyre more relaxed during intimacy. And at this point in life, they typically dont have young kids to take up all their time, so theres more opportunity to enjoy the action.
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Sex May Become Painful
There are consequences to the estrogen drop that occurs at the time of menopause, namely less lubrication. And that desertlike dryness can make sex uncomfortable or even painful.
Changes to the vaginal tissue can also interfere with your ability to become lubricated, says Dr. Streicher, whos also the host of the forthcoming podcast Inside Information With Dr. Streicher. Thats where a good lubricant comes in. She recommends silicone-based lubes, because water-based lubes can actually be drying to vaginal tissue.
If lubricants arent enough to counter the dryness, you may want to use a vaginal moisturizer two or three times per week, which can help make sex more comfortable. Beyond that, talk to your doctor about other treatments, including vaginal estrogen, which is available in creams, rings, pills, and capsules.
And Keep In Mind That You Can Still Get Pregnant Even After The Menopause Process Starts
Because menopause is defined by not having a period for 12 months straight, when youre perimenopausal, or transitioning towards menopause, your period may go MIA but then make a comeback at some point. Some people have breakthrough bleeding or periods in between, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. And while that doesnt necessarily mean that youve ovulated, it could mean that you have. And that means you could potentially get pregnant.
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Should I Have Sex During Menopause
Some women experience menopause and do not notice any change in their sexual desire, pleasure or performance, and some women notice profound changes in their sexual response and capacity. As with everything about menopause, each woman has her own story to tell.
As estrogen diminishes, and as your body ages, you may see some changes that affect your sexual response. Some of these changes are because hormones are waning, and some of them could be psychological or emotional in nature. You may not notice at first that something has changed, and you may or may not be distressed by those changes. During and after menopause you might notice:
- Vaginal dryness
- More vaginal or bladder infections
- Less sensation in the genital area
Remember, many women dont have any of these symptoms, but at least half of women have one or more of them.
Before you worry that your sex life is over, first take stock of what is happening and what you want. If sexual activity and your own sexual attractiveness are an important part of your identity, any change can be distressing. On the other hand, if sex has been an enjoyablebut not centralpart of your identity, you may take these sexual changes in stride.
What will help depends on what is causing the problem. If diminishing hormones are the most likely cause of your symptoms, you can try:
- How much you enjoyed it before menopause
- How highly you set it as a priority
- How healthy you are
Aiding Arousal And Orgasm
Both arousal and orgasm depend on a complex array of psychological and physical factors. Issues that reduce libido can also affect arousal and orgasm. In addition, when blood flow to the genitals and pelvis is diminished or nerves are damaged, it can be difficult to achieve either. Identifying and addressing lifestyle factors may increase your sexual response. These are the most common physical factors impeding arousal and orgasm:
Alcohol. Although a glass of wine might enhance your libido, heavy drinking can make it difficult to achieve orgasm.
Health conditions. Diseases that affect blood flow and nerve function, including diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis, can reduce sexual responsiveness.
Medication. Drugs to lower blood pressure can delay or prevent orgasm. Antidepressants, particularly SSRIs, can also impede orgasm.
Clinical trials have demonstrated that the following may be helpful in stimulating arousal and orgasm:
Zestra. A massage oil that creates a sensation of warmth throughout the genital area, Zestra increased desire, arousal, and satisfaction in 70% of the women enrolled in clinical trials required for FDA approval. It is available over the counter for around $10.
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You Still Need To Use Protection
While the threat of pregnancy may be over, you still need to use protection during sexual activity, even if youre in a monogamous relationship. According to a study published in August 2017 in the International Journal of STD and AIDS, people over age 50 were more likely than their younger counterparts to say they never use condoms. And data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have increased among people ages 55 to 64 and people ages 65 and over from 2015 to 2016.
Find A Lubricant You Love
Vaginal dryness is totally treatable, says , MD, clinical professor of ob-gyn at Yale School of Medicine. One option is an over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer designed to be used regularly, say two to three times a week, rather than just before sex. Take a walk down through your local drugstore, and youll see many different brands.
Then when youre ready to hit the bedroom, apply a water- or silicone-based lubricant intended to be used in the moment, so you get even more of an assist. If youve never checked out lubricants before, youll be amazed at all the varieties, including natural, additive-free versions and some that come in single-use packets for a quickie on the go.
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What About During Partner Sex
Communication is an essential part of good sex at any stage in life, but it becomes even more important now.
Talk openly with your partner about the changes of menopause and how theyre affecting you to help reduce stress about how those changes might affect your relationship.
Open conversations make it possible to explore solutions together, such as:
- trying alternate positions or types of touch when your go-tos feel uncomfortable
- spending more time on erogenous play and outercourse
Ask Your Doctor About Testosterone
Testosterone replacement has long been used as a solution for men with a waning libidoand it can help rev up your own sex drive as well. Still, not all doctors are OK with prescribing synthetic versions of this main male hormone . Testosterone is by no means a cure-all and can come with side effects like acne and thinning hair. Luckily, newer remedies to enhance libido are being worked on even as we speak, Dr. Minkin says.
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How Can I Protect Myself From Stds
Take some basic steps to help protect yourself from STDs:
- Not having sex is the only sure way to prevent STDs.
- Use a latex condom every time you have sex.
- Limit your number of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the more likely you are to catch an STD.
- Practice monogamy. This means having sex with only one person. That person must also have sex with only you to lower your risk.
- Choose your sex partners with care. Don’t have sex with someone who you suspect might have an STD.
- Get checked for STDs. Don’t risk giving the infection to someone else.
- Ask a potential sex partner to be checked for STDs. Symptoms of STDs may not be visible or even cause any symptoms for your partner.
- If you have more than one sex partner, always use a condom.
- Don’t use alcohol or drugs before you have sex. You may be less likely to practice safe sex if you’re drunk or high.
- Know the symptoms of STDs.
Why A Womans Sex Life Declines After Menopause
A revealing new analysis gives voice to the many reasons a womans sex life often falters with age.
For many women, sex after menopause is not as satisfying as it used to be. But is menopause entirely to blame?
New research suggests that the hormonal changes that come with menopause are only part of the reason a womans sex life declines with age. Its true that many women experience symptoms after menopause, including vaginal dryness, painful intercourse and loss of desire all of which can affect the frequency and pleasure of sex.
But the new study shows that the reasons many women stop wanting sex, enjoying sex and having sex are far more complex. While women traditionally have been blamed when sex wanes in a relationship, the research shows that, often, its the health of a womans partner that determines whether she remains sexually active and satisfied with her sex life.
We know that menopause seems to have a bad effect on libido, vaginal dryness and sexual pain, said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Womens Health in Rochester, Minn. But what is coming up as a consistent finding is that the partner has such a prominent role. Its not just the availability of the partner its the physical health of the partner as well.
The main reason was losing a partner to death or divorce, which was cited by 37 percent of the women.
Others cited mental health and addiction issues as the reason for lack of sex.
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Loss Of Libido Or Decreased Arousal
Changing hormone levels can affect your sexual interest, but other factors can play a part in libido, too.
- Taking any regular medications? Its worth checking whether any of them can affect libido and asking a healthcare professional about trying a different medication.
- Lingering changes in your mood? Stress, depression, and anxiety can all affect desire, so it never hurts to talk with a therapist or other mental health professional if youre experiencing mood changes.
- Having a hard time getting in the mood? Try reading or watching erotica alone or with your partner or sharing sexual fantasies with each other.
Physical Changes After Menopause
Your body goes through many physical changes during menopause, many of which can have an impact on sexual intercourse. These changes are primarily due to shifting hormone levels, especially a decrease in the amount of estrogen your ovaries produce.
Some of the physical changes you might experience with menopause include:
- Gradual weight gain
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Sleep problems like insomnia
Some or all of these uncomfortable symptoms might negatively influence your sex drive and affect how desireable or pleasurable sex is to you. You might even experience pain or discomfort during sex. In addition to the physical changes, many women experience mood swings and emotional changes before, during, and after menopause.
The good news is that there are ways to keep sex great after menopause. Once you know why you might be experiencing painful sex after menopause, you can explore different treatment options.
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Try Some Direct Stimulation
During the menopausal transition, blood flow to the vagina and clitoris decreases. If you usually need clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm, well, the resulting decrease in sensitivity can make orgasm more difficult to achieve.
More difficult doesnt mean impossible! It just may take a little longer or require a new approach.
Give these tips a try:
- Touching. Start by touching, rubbing, or stroking your clit or asking your partner to. Lube, like we mentioned above, can make a difference by reducing friction and increasing your pleasure. If youre new to direct touching, our guide to clitoral stimulation offers plenty of ideas for you and your partner to consider.
- Oral sex.Oral sex can be a great way to get things going. It stimulates your clit, for starters, but it also offers the added bonus of lubrication.
- Vibrators.Using a vibrator regularly, during solo or partnered sex, may help boost sensitivity and wetness and make it easier to reach orgasm.
How Does Menopause Affect Sexual Function In Women
Just as every women experiences menopause differently, women may or may not experience changes in sexual function after menopause. Since estrogen levels are lower after menopause, some women may notice that their libido, or sex drive, is decreased. Low estrogen levels can also lead to a decreased blood flow to the vagina, resulting in difficulty with lubrication or in dryness which that can make sexual intercourse less pleasant and painful for many women.
Not all women report negative changes in sexual function after menopause. For example, some women may find sex to be more pleasurable without the fear of unwanted pregnancy or without the potential stresses of having small children.
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