Sexuality and Menopause
Many women find that going through menopause does not impact their sex life. Some even find it even more exciting than ever because they are no longer concerned about becoming pregnant. For many women, though, some of the physical changes that accompany menopause do impact their enjoyment of sex. It is important to understand that these effects can be treated, and sex after menopause can be very fulfilling and enjoyable.
Symptoms of Menopause that Affect Sexual Enjoyment
During menopause, there are certain physical changes that can interfere with the enjoyment of sex. Due to loss of estrogen, these symptoms include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes that can occur at any time, causing discomfort and irritability
- Night sweats that interfere with a woman's sleep, thereby decreasing her desire for sex
- Loss of androgens (including testosterone) that can lower a woman's sex drive or libido
It is likewise important to note that a woman's desire for sex can be affected by other physical changes related more to aging than to menopause. These changes may include:
- Decreased blood flow to the pelvis—ovaries no longer need as much nourishment, and the reduced blood flow causes the vagina to become smaller and less elastic
- Walls of the vagina may become thin and tender, causing intercourse to be very painful
- Problems with urine leakage or increased urinary frequency due to weakening of pelvic muscle support
For both menopause-related symptoms, as well as symptoms of aging, there are steps you can take to ensure an enjoyable sex life beyond menopause.
- Healthy living - exercise and a healthy diet can make a difference in your overall sense of well-being and dealing with some symptoms, like hot flashes
- Hormone Replacement Therapy - can reduce the incidences of hot flashes and night sweats, as well as treating vaginal dryness
- Various over-the-counter and prescription medications and sex techniques (be sure to discuss with your health care provider)
- Compensate for vaginal dryness through the use of over-the-counter water-based gel lubricants (such as K-Y Jelly, Replens, or Astroglide) during intercourse
- Continued sexual activity can also help to prolong and maintain vaginal health
Do Seek Advice
Often, sexual problems that are easily treatable are dismissed by many women as just a part of aging. If continued sexual fulfillment is important to you, be sure to discuss any problems you are experiencing with your partner and your health care provider.