Menopause and Sex Drive
Menopause is one of the most significant changes a woman will go through in her life. Intimacy during menopause can be challenging to maintain and is a chief concern for many women throughout the process.
However, the notion that menopause will end your sex life is a myth. Some women experience a decrease in libido while others report a surge in interest in sex which sounds like a good thing but can come as an unwelcome shock for their partners.
There is some good news, many women have used a variety of techniques to maintain intimacy during menopause, both physically and emotionally.
How Menopause Affects Sexual Health
Hormones play a crucial role in sex drive, and since menopause affects your hormones, it's no wonder that menopause and sex drive are related.
The hormones estrogen and testosterone change not only the way your body looks but also your mood and sex drive – and during menopause, the levels of these hormones in your body plummet. As a result, during (and after) menopause, many women find themselves both less aroused and less sensitive to the touch of their partner.
Also, low estrogen levels may cause:
- Vaginal dryness (because the blood supply to the vagina is decreased)
- Painful intercourse
- Sleep problems
- Mood swings
Some medications such as antidepressants are also known to be linked to sexual dysfunction.
There are other medical health conditions such as vaginal, bladder or rectal prolapse which can render intercourse difficult or impossible for some women. You might avoid prolapse, but bladder or urinary tract infections are more common in menopause which is not exactly sexy and can be very painful.
Not to mention bladder leakage can also be a problem for some women who might then avoid intimacy for fear of an accident or odor.
Mental Health and Libido
Depression, anxiety, and stress can all have negative effects on libido and on relationships, which can affect a couple’s sex life.
It might be that depression is disrupting sleep, causing body image issues or performance anxiety.
Even if you don’t have depression, concerns about your changing body, sadness at the loss of fertility and anxiety about the future (which may merely coincide with menopause rather than be caused by it) can put stress on you. It might be that as children are flying the nest, you have taken on more work, or are caring for aging relatives.
Is It Normal to Have a Change in Sex Drive?
Sex drive and desire varies from one individual to another and depends on personal preferences, past experiences, culture and biological makeup. If you've felt that your sexual drive has decreased recently, consider visiting your doctor.
Many doctors see patients with complaints of symptoms that affect their ability to have or enjoy sex. In women, these symptoms may include vaginal dryness, which can lead to painful intercourse, depression or irritability, and low energy.
The sexual response consists of four phases:
The doctor's treatment plan will depend on which of these phases is affected.
Recognizing and Talking About Your Sex Drive Changes
It's important to remember that arousal is not all about the physical actions but the emotional side. The best thing you can do is recognize there is an issue, swallow any embarrassment and share your feelings with your nearest and dearest.
Talk With Your Partner
You don’t necessarily have to go into graphic detail but explain that you are having some issues which are almost certainly related to your age, stage or life and that you plan to tackle it, and hopefully with their support.
What Is Causing Your Decrease in Sex Drive?
The next step is to look at exactly what the issue is and see if it’s something that might be helped by a change in life.
Too busy and stressed for a love life? Look at cutting something from your schedule even if that means being a little selfish. Or maybe you can get help, share the load of caring for someone or running that committee/club/team to ease pressure on you.
Just making small changes might see you sleeping better, eating better if you have more time to prepare healthy food and enjoying some “me” time in a way you find relaxing.
Don't Forget to Relax
If sleep and relaxation are a real issue try changing your bedtime routine – ditch the screens in the bedroom and avoid caffeine or alcohol just before bed.
You could try getting some regular, enjoyable exercise to tire you out – exercise also produces “feel good” endorphins which can lift your mood naturally.