The change in hormones during menopause can decrease sexual desire and arousal. The drop in estrogen also thins out the vaginal tissue and reduces vaginal lubrication, which can lead to painful sex.
Menopause can affect a woman's sex drive as the drop in hormones leads to less sexual desire, reduced arousal and decreased vaginal lubrication.
Along with a decrease in vaginal lubrication, menopause also thins the vaginal tissue, which can lead to painful sex. This can be managed by using lubrication and vaginal moisturizers.
Women can have pleasurable sex during menopause by increasing communication and intimacy with a partner and incorporating new habits to increase desire and arousal.
Women can have pleasurable sex during and after menopause by using lubrication and communicating their sexual needs to their partners.
How does menopause affect your sex life?
Many people would think that the absence of a period would only enhance your sex drive. But this is not the truth for many women experiencing menopause.
Menopause, defined as 12 months without a menstrual cycle, sees a decrease in the hormones estrogen and testosterone, which are responsible for a woman’s reproduction and sexual functioning. This decrease in hormones can lead to a reduction in desire and arousal, as well as a decrease in vaginal lubrication and the thinning of the vaginal wall. Sex can become painful, furthering the decline in desire.
Other factors, such as additional health problems, body changes, and sleep disturbances caused by hot sweats, can also decrease sexual desire and arousal in women going through menopause.
How to communicate your needs to your partner during this time?
Communicating with your partner and managing each other's expectations are essential to help maintain intimacy during this time.
Talk about your needs
Menopause may have changed what feels pleasurable to you or how you feel about your body. It’s important to communicate this to your partner and let them know what feels good and what doesn't, so you can both work together to create new forms of intimacy and pleasure. Let your partner know what time of day your feel most relaxed, what positions feel good, and which positions aren't so comfortable. There may be other forms of sex outside of penetration that feel better, such as oral sex, which you should let your partner know about.
Talk about your emotions
Women experience a wide range of emotions during menopause, from irritability to stress and anxiety, all of which can affect sexual desire and arousal. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to communicate this to your partner so that they can support and help you through this time.
Ask for longer foreplay
As we age, it takes longer for the blood to flow to our genitals, which is necessary for sexual arousal. Therefore, extra time is needed during foreplay to let the body become naturally aroused. If you’ve been with your partner for a long time, you may have pretty established sexual routines and will need to communicate to your partner your need for extra foreplay.
Tips for women experiencing menopause
Aging doesn't mean that your best sex is behind you. While there may be some changes, there are many tips that you can incorporate to enjoy pleasurable sex.
Use lubricants and vaginal moisturizers
Lubricants and vaginal moisturizers help to lubricate the vaginal tissue to reduce friction during sex. Lubricants should be used before and during partnered and solo sex, applied as needed for short-term relief. While vaginal moisturizers are to be used consistently over a long period to help rehydrate the vaginal tissue. Vaginal moisturizers are available over the counter and usually come in a cream, gel, or suppository form.
Break up the sexual routine
As stated above, our sexual needs may change during menopause, and therefore, how we have sex may also need to change. To mitigate the decrease in desire and arousal, change up the sexual routine by incorporating things like erotica, pornography, and sex toys into your routine. If this is not your thing, focus on other forms of intimacy, like giving your partner a massage or having time set aside for cuddling.
The reduction in hormones from menopause reduces the spontaneous sexual desire for many women. To help combat this, tap into responsive desire instead of scheduling sex. This type of desire occurs after sexual stimuli such as an intimate touch or a kiss, have already occurred. Scheduling time to yourself or with your partner to focus on sex and intimacy can help to restore intimacy and pleasure.
Speak up when you feel pain
Sex shouldn't be painful. If you experience pain when having sex with your partner, speak up. Constantly having painful sex often leads to avoiding sex altogether. If you are experiencing painful sex, try using some of the tips above. If these don't work, speak to a health professional.
If not in a monogamous relationship, it is important to use barrier protection such as a condom, to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is also important to get tested regularly for STIs if you or your sexual partners are having sex with others.
Menopause doesn't signal the end of sex, and it is possible to have intimate and pleasurable sex during menopause by making some small changes. For those women who experience pain during sex due to vaginal dryness, lubricants and moisturizers can help. Communicating your needs to a partner and incorporating new pleasure practices can also assist in maintaining intimacy through this period.