Hey there, ladies! Now that you're postmenopausal, you may think your sex life is going to be amazing without the worries of getting your period, pregnancy, or being interrupted by your kiddos. While it can still be great, it's important to manage your expectations.
Menopause is a natural biological process that all women go through, but it can come with a host of changes - both physical and emotional. One of the most significant changes many women experience is a decrease in sex drive and changes in sexual function.
According to Chris Kraft, Ph.D., director of clinical services at the Sex and Gender Clinic in the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medicine, the sex you have in your postmenopausal years may not be the same as what you had in your 20s. But don't worry, it can still be enjoyable and fulfilling!
Here, we’ll answer questions you may have about menopause and how it can affect your sex life, as well as tips on how to maintain intimacy with your partner during menopause. Enjoy reading!
Getting to Know Menopausal Transition
Menopause marks a significant point in a woman's life, 12 months after her last period. But leading up to this point, women may experience changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes, and other symptoms. This time is referred to as the menopausal transition or perimenopause.
Menopausal transition usually starts between the ages of 45 and 55 and lasts around 7 years. However, for some women, it can last up to 14 years! The length of this transition can vary depending on different factors such as your age when it starts, your lifestyle choices like smoking, and even your race and ethnicity. During perimenopause, which is part of the transition, the production of estrogen and progesterone - two hormones made by the ovaries - can vary significantly.
Transitioning into menopause is unique to every woman and can affect you in different ways. During this time, your body starts to use energy differently, fat cells may change, and you might find that you gain weight more easily. Some women may experience changes in their bone or heart health, their body shape and composition, or their physical function. But don't worry, with the right self-care and support, you can manage these changes and continue to feel amazing in your body.
It's also important to know that if you're not looking to get pregnant, you should continue using birth control for at least 12 months after your last period to avoid any surprises. Remember, your body is unique and it's always best to consult with your healthcare provider to find what works best for you.
How It Affects Our Sex Life
During menopause, a woman's body goes through a series of hormonal changes. While it's normal to feel worried or anxious about these changes, it's important to remember that they're entirely normal and expected. In fact, studies show that up to 75% of women experience some degree of sexual dysfunction during menopause.
So, what exactly causes these changes? The main culprit is the decrease in estrogen hormone levels that occurs during menopause. Think you have a hormone imbalance? Take the quiz here to find out.
Estrogen plays a vital role in sexual function, so a decline in its levels can lead to changes that can cause discomfort or pain during intercourse, as well as a decrease in sexual desire. Symptoms of estrogen decline include:
1. Vaginal Dryness
As estrogen levels decline, the vagina can become less lubricated, leading to discomfort or pain during intercourse.
2. Loss of Libido
Many women experience a decrease in sexual desire during menopause, which can be frustrating and distressing. It can lead to changes in sexual function, like difficulty achieving orgasm or a decrease in arousal and sex drive.
3. Night Sweats and Insomnia
Night sweats and insomnia can really disrupt your sleep and leave you feeling tired? And we all know that feeling tired can have a big impact on your energy levels and even your sex drive. It's important to take care of yourself during this time and prioritize getting the rest your body needs.
4. Emotional Changes
Emotional changes can be a part of menopause and make you feel more stressed or irritable, reducing your sex drive.
How Can We Maintain Intimacy During Menopause?
Menopause is not all bad news! There are plenty of things women can do to ease these symptoms and keep their sex lives vibrant and fulfilling. Here are a few tips on how you can maintain intimacy during and after menopause:
1. Staying Active
Regular exercise, sleeping habits and a balanced diet can help boost your mood, energy levels, and libido. Even a 30-minute walk can make a difference!
2. Communicating with Your Partner
Don't be afraid to talk openly with your partner about your changing needs and desires. This can help you feel more comfortable and supported in the bedroom.
3. Set an Intimate Date
Make sex an appointment and write it on your calendar. It may not be as spontaneous, but it can help ensure that you prioritize intimacy in your relationship. It doesn’t really have to be sex itself, but try scheduling an intimate encounter with your partner, may it be a simple dinner date at home, or a mini-trip away.
Getting away from your usual routine can be incredibly romantic and create the perfect setting for some quality time with your partner.
4. Exploring Different Forms of Intimacy
Sex isn't just about intercourse! You may even want to take a break from the regular vaginal intercourse. Try experimenting with other forms of physical intimacy, like cuddling, kissing, massage, oral sex, manual stimulation, sensual baths and caressing.
You can enjoy these techniques with or without a partner. Don't be afraid to get creative and try new things - sometimes the unexpected can be incredibly erotic for couples. Remember, the key is to communicate with your partner and find what works best for both of you.
5. Don’t be Afraid to Shop for Sex
If vaginal dryness is an issue, don't hesitate to use lubrication during sex. This can help reduce discomfort and make intercourse more pleasurable.
You can find sexual enhancement creams, vaginal lubricants, and moisturizers in most neighborhood or online pharmacies. And if you're feeling adventurous, you can even visit an adult boutique for magazines, toys, and an array of other products that will definitely make for some interesting "research."
Just remember to pretest all new topical products in a "safe" area (like behind the ear) to make sure they don't cause any irritation. Whatever you choose, have fun exploring and remember to always prioritize your own pleasure and safety.
6. Seek Professional help
If your symptoms are severe or impacting your quality of life, don't hesitate to talk to your healthcare provider or schedule a menopause consultation with Delayna. You might want to consider consulting a sex counselor or therapist for individual or couples therapy. They may be able to recommend treatments or therapies that can help.
7. Don’t Stop Having Sex
When it comes to intimacy and sex, age is not an issue. You can engage in sexual activity on a regular basis, with or without a partner. This in turn can help maintain vaginal elasticity and lubrication, making sex during menopause a comfortable and enjoyable activity.
In the end, menopause is a natural and normal part of the aging process. Hormones play a major role in how you experience and manage symptoms. Take this short quiz to learn more about your hormones!
By taking care of yourself and being open and communicative with your partner and healthcare provider, you can manage the symptoms of menopause and stay sexually vibrant and healthy well into your golden years!