Women generally experience menopause in their late 40s or early 50s. This is a normal part of aging, but one that can present some unique challenges for women, including some which involve sex. In this article, we’ll explain those challenges and their treatment options while also highlighting some of the benefits of post-menopausal sex.
Once a woman has experienced menopause, her sexual functioning may be affected. Some of the following challenges a woman may face after menopause occurs include:
- Vaginal dryness: The decrease in estrogen levels that occurs after menopause has occurred can lead to a decrease in the blood supply to the vagina. This often results in drier and thinner vaginal tissues.
- Painful sex: When vaginal dryness is an issue, this problem may appear during vaginal intercourse. Another issue that contributes to painful sex is the fact that the lower third of the vagina may shrink after menopause.
- Decreased libido: Lower estrogen levels can also lead to a decreased interest in sex. Women may find that, after menopause, they are not as easily aroused and may be less sensitive to stroking or touching.
- Disturbed sleep: Some women experience night sweats with menopause, which may make her too tired for sex.
- Emotional changes: Women go through a host of emotional changes during menopause. Some even experience depression or anxiety. In some cases, this can lead to stress that reduces their interest in sex.
- Bladder control problems: Some women have some incontinence issues after menopause, which can make them feel less comfortable or confident when having sex.
- Health concerns: Women who have experienced menopause may also be dealing with other health issues or are taking medications which affect their interest in sex.
Women who have gone through menopause may face some, none or all of these challenges. Each woman is affected differently.
It may seem as though there is a focus on the negative ways in which menopause affects a woman’s sex life. However, many women experience several benefits of sexual intercourse after menopause has occurred. These benefits may include:
- No pregnancy worries: After menopause has occurred (when a woman hasn’t had her period for at least one year), she no longer has to worry about getting pregnant. This can lead to a more spontaneous and relaxed sex life, and it eliminates the worry of birth control.
- Fewer responsibilities: Once they reach menopause, most women have children who are old enough to largely take care of themselves. In addition, they tend to have more stable careers and financial freedom. All of these factors lead to an increase ability to relax and enjoy intimacy with their partners.
- More confidence: Many women are most sexually confident around the time they reach menopause because they are aware of what kind of sexual experience they want and are more comfortable with who they are, leading to an improved sex life.
- Increased libido: Though many women do experience decreased interest in sex after menopause, some experience just the opposite. In some cases, this may be tied to birth control pills that inhibit sex drive – once a woman no longer needs those pills, her libido may resurge.
Ways To Improve Post-Menopausal Sex
For women that do experience challenges with sex after menopause, there are lots of great options to help. The following are some of the most popular treatment options for sexual issues which may develop after menopause:
- Vaginal dryness or painful sex: Water-based lubricants and vaginal moisturizers can be purchased over the counter to relieve vaginal dryness and make sex less painful. In addition, doctors can prescribe estrogen creams, tablets or rings which may increase the moisture and sensation in the vagina.
- Decreased libido: There are estrogen products available for increasing libido, but no conclusive information has been found regarding their effectiveness. Instead, talk to your doctor to find out whether you need to talk to a health professional who specializes in sexual dysfunction. You can also seek counseling with or without your partner.
In addition to these treatments, some women seek out menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). This involves taking the hormones estrogen and progesterone in order to treat vaginal dryness and discomfort along with other symptoms associated with menopause, such as night sweats and hot flashes. This may help certain women, but MHT can also increase the risk of blood clots, heart attack, breast cancer, stroke and gall bladder disease. For this reason, MHT is only recommended on the lowest dose and shortest amount of time possible.
Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of the sexual challenges associated with menopause. In many cases, these issues can be relieved with treatments or counseling.