Menopause Not the End of Sex
Although hormonal changes with menopause do affect women’s sexual health it is a myth to think all women experience a lack of libido and a decline in active sex at this stage of life, particularly if their menopause is natural and not as a result of a hysterectomy.
Several studies have shown about half of middle aged women notice a decline in sexual desire, with 20 per cent of these significantly affected, although a higher number of women (75 per cent) reported an unexpected loss of sexual desire after hysterectomy.
Hormones like estrogen, testosterone and DHEA are believed to play an important role in sexual desire and responsiveness, affecting not just libido but also physical aspects like vaginal dryness.
How Sex Can Be Affected by Menopause
Red Hot Mamas, a specialist website dedicated to menopause issues, says the most common menopause symptoms reported in a survey of 1000 women were hot flushes and vaginal dryness or vaginal shrinkage causing discomfort with sex.
Many of these women expressed a strong desire to maintain their sex lives, but they were unaware that the vaginal shrinkage was related to estrogen deficiency and was readily treated, says gynaecology professor Dr Murray Freedman.
Changes in a women’s sexual health at menopause are caused by:
- Menstrual changes – disrupted flow, uncertainty about when period occur
- Discomfort because of vaginal dryness and sensitivity
- Lower sex drive
- Night sweats which disrupt sleep, impair self-image and cause irritability
- Emotional changes which can affect a women’s outlook, leaving her feeling stressed and unattractive
- Urinary tract infections, loss of bladder control
- Weight gain – extra pounds can affect self confidence
Sex After Menopause
There are many myths about sex and menopause, including that it’s not normal to want sex after menopause. In fact many women feel more sexual desire when they no longer face the possibility of pregnancy and the weight of other family responsibilities. Couples may also enjoy more financial and emotional stability than in younger years, and thus more recreational time to share.
Sex in midlife – before during or after menopause – can be the best a couple has ever shared, as their relationship deepens, the masks fall away and there is more intimacy in their exchanges. Even the sense that you are growing closer together as a couple has validity.
Science shows men and women’s emotional needs converge as they grow older – with men seeking more emotional closeness, and women becoming more interested in the physicality of sex.
Maintaining Good Sex After 50
Some menopausal symptoms can be inconvenient and even unpleasant, but most can be managed if you seek out information and take simple steps to alleviate the more severe effects.
- Understand Your Body
If you pay attention to your body and how it responds to different changes you’ll be in a better position to manage menopause side effects. Hot flushes can be triggered by common stimulants like red wine or coffee, and going easy on those may greatly reduce the effect. Or there may be other triggers for you.
- Exercise and Eat Well
Physical activity can increase energy, lift mood and improve your self-image – all of which will give you more confidence in your sex life.
A good whole food diet low in fat and sugar ensures good energy levels, weight control and overall well being.
- Have Sex – Use it or Lose it
Like any other activity if you stop engaging in sex then vaginal tissue will atrophy, and sex will become increasingly uncomfortable. Arousal brings blood supply into vaginal tissue, oxygenating it and keeping it lubricated. And the emotional side of sex is just as important as the physical. Maintaining that intimate link does wonders for keeping your relationship alive and close.
- Quality sex is possible at any age. Adapt to your changed physical situation by allowing more time to get aroused:
- increasing the fun of foreplay
- and using a vaginal lubricant to assist the process
- Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles to increase blood flow and improve orgasm.
- Kegel exercises are simple and effective.
- Check out the options for hormone therapy. There are many sophisticated treatments that do not carry the risk of traditional HRT.
- Find a doctor who understands this area of medicine if your GP isn’t well informed.
- Doctors who are specialists in integrated medicine can prescribe bio identical hormone creams and DHEA and other hormonal supplements.
- Check out testosterone supplements.
- Australian research has shown testosterone patches are very effective for women with low sex drive.
Talk About What Works For You
Talking with your partner about how you are feeling – and giving him or her a chance to also say how they are going – makes it much more likely you will be able to enjoy a good sex life together. He or she is not a mind reader. Unless you acknowledge what is happening you can’t expect them to pick it up by osmosis. You need to set time aside for sex and be committed to sharing intimate times together.
You can talk about:
- What positions are most comfortable for you
- Whether you need more time to get aroused
- The times of day you feel most approachable and relaxed
- How to enjoy intimate connection without intercourse
Menopause and Women’s Sexual Health
Menopause is a natural conclusion to a women’s reproductive cycle, and it can be freeing when approached with a positive attitude. The famous anthropologist Margaret Mead coined the phrase “post menopausal zest” to describe the freedom women enjoy at this time “free of birth control, PMS, monthly cramps and inconveniences.”
It’s a time of new adventures – in the bedroom and out of it. If you feel you need support to get launched why not try a herbal supplement for women’s reproductive and sexual health like Herbal Ignite for Women.
Not only will it help hormonal balance and alleviate menopausal symptoms, but it will also improve energy, mood and lift libido. Jenny Wheeler