Your Sex Life Doesn't Have to Suffer During Menopause

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Medically Reviewed By:
Mark Arredondo, M.D.

MONDAY, June 19, 2023 (HealthDay News) --- Let's talk about menopause and its impact on your sex life. We all know that this phase of life can bring about some changes, like a lower sex drive and vaginal dryness. But here's the thing: you don't have to suffer through it. In this article, we will break down how menopause affects your sexual experiences, share some medications and self-care tips that can make a real difference, and give you a glimpse into how sex may be different postmenopause.

So, buckle up and get ready to take control of your sexual well-being during this transformative time. Let's dive in!

Sex and Menopause

“Menopause can bring about a range of effects on sexual function—some positive and some not so great. However, what's crucial to understand is that sexual satisfaction plays a significant role in multiple aspects of our overall health. It is directly linked to life satisfaction, quality of life, marital happiness, and overall well-being,” says Dr. Catherine Hansen, MD, MPH, a NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner and the head of menopause for Pandia Health, a doctor-led birth control delivery service founded and led by women.

“In fact,” Hansen says, “Sexual dysfunction can be just as debilitating as other chronic diseases such as IBS or arthritis.” And as most adults know, maintaining a healthy sex life is paramount for leading a happy and healthy life.

This said, the impact of menopause on sexual health should not be overlooked or brushed aside. It's a vital part of our overall wellness, and addressing any challenges or concerns in this area is essential.

How Does Menopause Affect Your Sex Life?

Menopause can have a significant impact on your sex life. According to an article from Johns Hopkins Medicine, several factors come into play. Hormonal changes during menopause, particularly the decrease in estrogen levels, can lead to a decrease in vaginal lubrication, making intercourse uncomfortable or painful. Additionally, the decline in estrogen can result in thinning and drying of the vaginal tissues, contributing to further discomfort and painful sex after menopause.

Furthermore, menopause can affect sexual desire or libido. Fluctuating hormone levels, along with physical and emotional changes, may lead to a decrease in sexual desire for some women. “As estrogen declines, a change in the vulvovaginal tissues can contribute to vaginal dryness and sexual pain (i.e., dyspareunia). If there is pain with sex, women don’t want it as often and have lower arousal levels, orgasms, and overall satisfaction with the act. Ultimately, they may start to avoid it,” says Dr. Hansen.

However, it's important to note that not all women experience decreased libido during menopause. Some women may find that they have an increased sense of freedom and sexual exploration during this stage of life.

Sex After Menopause

“Sex becomes more challenging after menopause due to lower desire, decreased arousal, and greater difficulty achieving orgasm. It can take much longer to achieve the arousal needed to orgasm, and often, orgasms become less intense,” says Dr. Heather England, Clinical Psychotherapist, Certified Sex Therapist, Life and Sex Coach.

“On top of that, physical changes due to reduced estrogen make the vaginal area drier, which can cause sex to be painful. Using lubrication helps, but sometimes, it's insufficient to compensate for the lack of natural lubrication. I always suggest my clients tell their doctor if sex is painful because medications and hormone therapy can help dramatically. No one should assume painful sex is acceptable, regardless of your age.”

What Can You Do?

If you are wondering how to increase sex drive during menopause, know that various strategies and options are available. From simple self-care measures to medical interventions, finding what works best for you is vital.

The North American Menopause Society has some suggestions to enhance your sexual well-being and desire during menopause:

  • Use lubricants and moisturizers—Products like water-based and vaginal moisturizers can help alleviate vaginal dryness and discomfort during intercourse. However, before using any new topical products, it's essential to conduct a pretest in a "safe" area, such as behind the ear, to ensure they do not cause irritation. Testing a small skin patch before applying a product more broadly can help you determine if it is suitable for use without any adverse reactions.
  • Explore hormone therapy—Hormone therapy, under the guidance of a healthcare professional, can help balance hormone levels and alleviate symptoms that affect your sex life.
  • Communicate with your partner—According to an article by Harvard Health Publishing, communication with one's partner is the foundation of a healthy sexual relationship. Open and honest communication about your needs, desires, and concerns can foster a deeper emotional connection and enhance intimacy.
  • Try different positions and techniques—Experimenting with new positions or techniques that prioritize comfort and minimize discomfort can help you discover what works best for you.
  • Engage in non-penetrative intimacy—Remember that sex encompasses many activities beyond intercourse. Explore non-penetrative forms of intimacy, such as sensual massages, oral stimulation, or mutual masturbation.
  • Seek professional guidance—If you're experiencing persistent difficulties, consider consulting a healthcare provider or a sex therapist specializing in menopause-related issues.
  • Prioritize self-care—Taking care of your overall well-being, including physical exercise, stress reduction techniques, and adequate sleep, can positively impact your sexual health.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle—A balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can improve sexual function and overall well-being.

Everyone's journey through menopause is unique, so don't be afraid to explore different options and find what works best for you and your partner. Empower yourself with knowledge, seek support when needed, and prioritize your sexual well-being as essential to your overall health and happiness.

Embracing Sexual Well-being During Menopause

Navigating the impact of menopause on your sex life can be a transformative journey that requires open communication, self-discovery, and the courage to seek support. Remember that prioritizing your sexual well-being is about pleasure and nurturing your health and happiness.

By exploring strategies, from lubricants and hormone therapy to emotional intimacy and self-care, you can reclaim control over your sexual experiences and embark on a fulfilling and empowered path through menopause.

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