How much do you really know about menopause? If you’re like most of us, the answer is probably “not a lot.” Like most things in life (especially for those with vulvas), menopause doesn’t come with a handbook, and we must learn as we go. Sigh.
It doesn’t sound fair, does it? We don’t think so either, so here’s everything you need to know about menopause and sex.
How Does Menopause Affect Sex Drive?
Menopause officially occurs when you’ve missed 12 consecutive periods without the help of hormonal birth control. Most people with vulvas go through menopause in midlife at about 45 to 50 years of age (with an average age of about 51).
You’ve probably heard about menopause symptoms (cue the extreme hot flashes and night sweats), but what’s the deal with menopause and sexual activity? It all comes down to sex hormones, specifically estrogen.
Different things may turn us on, but sex hormones are the main driving force behind how our body physically responds to our sexual desire. Unfortunately, estrogen takes a major nosedive as we go through menopause.
Low estrogen levels can impact your sex drive, making “go time” require a little more lubrication planning — even with all the foreplay in the world.
Lower estrogen levels can also affect blood flow — you may feel colder and have less circulation to your genitals. How does this impact sex? Less circulation to the genitals can mean less sensitivity and more trouble reaching orgasm.
Does Menopause Lower Sex Drive in All Women?
Everyone’s body is different, and not everyone experiences a decrease in their sex drive during menopause. Some women even report having a higher sex drive during and after menopause, likely because sex can be much more fun when you’re not worried about getting pregnant!
However, it is far more common than not to see a reduction in your desire (or a temporary lack of desire) to have sex. And that is okay because there are options.
How Can Sex Change After Menopause?
So we know what’s behind some of the physical changes and symptoms of menopause, but what does that mean for your actual sex life? How does sex change when you go through menopause?
Estrogen can be our best friend or our worst enemy. During menopause, as our estrogen levels decrease, the hormone levels make it significantly more challenging to get physically turned on (read: wet).
Your head can be fully in the game, and your partner can be pressing all the right buttons and still — nothing. This is where the need for supplemental lube comes in (like our Intimacy Sex Oil). A lack of vaginal lubrication (natural or otherwise) can be uncomfortable or cause painful sex due to more delicate, less wet vaginal tissue.
Again, estrogen is likely responsible for any changes you may notice to your libido during menopause. When you combine the decrease in this crucial sex hormone with other lifestyle factors, you may notice that you want to have sex much less than you used to.
Plus, menopause can also lead to other physical and emotional changes, like weight gain, increased irritability, and trouble sleeping. You may feel differently and more self-conscious about your body and find it hard to get in the mood (even during masturbation).
Frequency is a tricky subject because there really is no correct frequency for people of any age to want to have sex. It’s not like you have to hit a magic number (say, three times a week) to be considered “normal.”
The truth is, you are likely to see a decrease in the number of times a week or even a month that you have sex from what your personal “normal” is. The key is communication so that your partner knows how you’re feeling.
What Can I Do To Maintain Intimacy After Menopause?
Menopause and sex can still go hand in hand, as long as you know how to work with the changes happening inside your body. Using plenty of lube is one way to help counteract the change in hormones, but it’s not the only thing you can do. After all, just using lube doesn’t mean you’re actually turned on or in the mood; it just helps fix the physical issue.
An excellent place to start is with Awaken Arousal Oil. When applied to your erogenous zones (like your clitoris, vulva, and vaginal opening), the oil enhances physical sensation, which can help get your head and body in the game.
You can also spend more time connecting with your partner before sex begins, like taking a bath with them using our Intimacy Bath Salts before taking it to the bedroom. However, it’s also crucial to remember that intimacy doesn’t always have to mean sex.
Spending time cuddling with your partner or having a set date night once a week (even if it doesn’t end with anything sexual) can be just as intimate, especially in a long-term relationship. You can also be intimate without penetration, focusing instead on oral sex or sex toys that you or your partner can use externally.
Having Less Sex Is Natural
All this said, having less sex is natural during and after menopause. In addition to how female bodies respond to the menopause process, male bodies go through their own struggles around the same age range.
It’s estimated that only about half of cisgender women who sleep with people with a penis are sexually active in their 50s, and that number drops to just 27 percent when they reach their 70s.
That’s not to say that you have to give up on having sex if your libido is still kicking and you’re super attracted to your partner. Just know that a decreased sex drive doesn’t make you abnormal and that you should feel absolutely no pressure to have frequent intercourse if you’re just not feeling it.
How To Decrease Discomfort
If you’ve tried more foreplay and lots of lube and are still experiencing discomfort during sex, don’t despair! Vaginal discomfort can result from several factors, many of which are related to our archnemesis — estrogen.
In addition to making vaginal dryness a regular part of how we relate to menopause and sex, it can lead to thinner, more fragile vaginal tissue. Lube can help solve some of the issues, but you may need to see your OB-GYN to discuss estrogen therapy or other treatment options if it’s consistently impacting your sex life.
These hormonal supplements can come from vaginal estrogen, hormone replacement therapy (patches, creams, or pills), and vaginal moisturizers. Another option to help you relax and reduce potential discomfort is to try Intimacy Melts.
When inserted vaginally 30 to 60 minutes before intercourse, these suppositories help to create a more pleasurable sexual experience so you can relax and enjoy yourself. When you combine them with lube, plenty of foreplay, and open communication with your partner, you can adjust to the change in your physical situation a lot easier.
Menopause and sex can still work together, as long as you know what to expect and don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Yes, vaginal dryness can happen, but that doesn’t make you any less sexy or worth of love.
There’s something to be said for embracing life's changes instead of judging or holding ourselves to some impossible standard. When you love yourself, it becomes much less difficult to roll with the punches so you can live life the way you want.
Decreased Desire, Sexual Side Effects of Menopause | The North American Menopause Society
Experiencing Vaginal Dryness? Here's What You Need to Know. | ACOG
How Sex Changes After Menopause | Johns Hopkins Medicine
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