Menopause and Sex
Let’s Talk Sex
The way we feel about sex during or after menopause will often reflect how we felt about sex pre-menopause. Some of us loved it, and some of us could take it or leave it. Therefore, as with most things, our thoughts, feelings, and experiences with sex before, during, or after menopause will be as unique as we are.
What we do know is sex is often hormonally driven and it is these hormones that deplete as we get older. During our fertile years, our want for sex will usually be higher just before we ovulate as nature tells us it’s time to get down to business. This increase in libido is due to oestrogen, a hormone that is high during the days before ovulation.
Proactive ‘vs’ Reactive
This doesn’t mean all is lost and after menopause, you will never enjoy sex again, this isn’t true, but sex may change for you. Before hitting menopause, we may have been more proactive in our approach to sex (driven by our hormones) whereas post-menopause we may be more reactive. Meaning our bodies are more likely to become aroused when touched as opposed to being spontaneously aroused during ovulation. Orgasms may also decline in their intensity and duration due to the decrease in blood flow to the vagina and clitoris but they will still be possible and enjoyable.
Sexual Self Esteem
We may also find that our sexual self-esteem starts to decline with age. As our bodies age, we can become uncomfortable with what we see in the mirror. We may put on weight, our skin will lose elasticity, our shape changes, bits droop and drop, pubic hair become thinner and goes grey, and our vaginas may feel dryer, or we may experience vaginal atrophy. During these times, we may need to show more compassion and kindness to our bodies. Our relationship with our bodies is important and accepting our changing bodies can really help us in the bedroom.
Getting in the Mood
Aching bodies, lack of sleep, stress, anxiety, and hot flashes (to name only a few symptoms) can interfere with our motivation for sex. Looking after ourselves is important during this time, we need to make sure we exercise, rest, eat the right foods, and minimise our stress where possible. Also taking the time alone or with a partner to be intimate is important. We must make the time to slow down and connect.
Vaginal dryness, discomfort or pain
Over-the-counter vaginal lubricants or moisturisers will usually help if you feel vaginal dryness. If you are still sore or you are struggling with discomfort speak to your GP as they can prescribe oestrogen cream or pessaries that will help lubricate the vagina and make penetration easier.
However, It’s Not All About Penetration
There is more to sex than penetration (digital or penile). There are so many ways to explore your own body and that of your partner without penetration. Sex is a whole-body experience so if penetration feels too much, focus on other things that arouse your body.
Speak to your partner about sex and how sex is for you during and following the menopause. If you are embarrassed, consider speaking to a Psychosexual Therapist who will help you to learn to communicate and find the language you need to tell your partner how you feel or what you would like.
Bring Your Senses Alive
Creating the right conditions for sex is so important. Set the scene for sex/lovemaking.
Sight – Create a visually inviting environment. For example, choose beautiful bed sheets, light candles, and create a clear space that is inviting.
Smell – Shower before sex, use oils and creams that smell delicious, and light scented candles.
Touch – Take time to touch each other all over before touching the genitals. Use a feather or silk to touch your partner. Maybe try a slow, sensual massage. Use a nice massage oil. If you are using oils near the genitals use an oil such as coconut oil so you do not irritate sensitive areas of your body.
Hearing – Put on some sexy music or whisper sweet nothings to your partner during sex. You could also try listening to a sexy audiobook together.
Taste – Use your mouth to kiss your partner or bring some food into your encounter. Drink champagne with strawberries. Bring your taste buds alive!
During the menopausal period, our hormones fluctuate and that can have an impact on mental health and well-being. We may experience more stress, anxiety, and depression due to life changes such as aging parents, juggling work with home life, children leaving home, etc. Difficult life events on top of the symptoms of menopause may leave you feeling that things are too much. If you feel this way, seek out the help of a counsellor or psychotherapist and reach out to friends and family for support if you can.
Speak To Your GP
If you are struggling with your libido, or any aspect of your physical well-being speak to your GP or a menopause clinic. HRT has come a long way and it could help you to feel better. If this isn’t for you, natural remedies and alternative therapies such as acupuncture and hypnosis can also help combat unwanted symptoms.