Menopause Mythbusters: 7 Myths About Menopause and Sex Drive
Sex drive during menopause is one of the most hotly debated topics, so naturally, there are a ton of myths out there about menopause and sex drive. Does it disappear completely? Can sex get better? Is vaginal dryness something you have to live with for the rest of your life?
Take a deep breath. Menopause does not have to mark the end of your sex life. Of course, every woman’s experience with their sex drive during menopause is different. Let’s look at some of the biggest questions around sex drive during menopause.
1. Will my sex drive suddenly disappear when I reach menopause?
No. It’s natural for both men and women to experience a gradual decrease in their sex drive with age – for women, that age is typically in the late 40s-50s. But the experience itself truly differs from woman to woman. Some notice a big decrease in sexual desire during those years, others become more interested in sex, and some women notice no change in sexual desire at all.
For some women, a decrease in sexual desire isn’t a major issue in their lives. But for others, it becomes a source of distress that can put a strain on their personal relationships. This is called hypoactive sexual desire disorder, and it’s a fairly common issue for menopausal women.
2. What causes decreased sexual desire during menopause?
The loss of estrogen and testosterone during menopause are often the culprits behind lower sex drive during menopause. But there are a few other reasons, too. Certain medications have side effects that include a decreased sexual desire. Other menopause symptoms can get in the way of your sex life. Everything from hot flashes, to sleeplessness, to vaginal dryness can take a toll on our bodies, making sex feel like a lower priority. The pain caused by vaginal dryness alone can make sex incredibly challenging. Finally, depression and mood swings factor in too, and both can lead to a decreased interest in sex.
3. Is it possible to increase my sex drive during menopause?
Yes. First, see your doctor to rule out any underlying causes of decreased sexual desire, such as a thyroid issue or side effects of a medication. It’s important to get to the root of your decreased desire. Has sex become painful, or have you simply lost interest? Do have more trouble feeling arousal, reaching orgasm, or both?
If vaginal dryness and/or pain is holding you back, a water-based vaginal moisturizer could work wonders. If you have more issues around getting aroused and achieving orgasm, it’s important to give yourself space and time to enjoy sex. For example, you might opt to decompress with a hot bath before sex. And as unsexy as this sounds, if you and your partner have hectic schedules, you could consider scheduling sex for specific days and times that will allow you to relax and enjoy sex more. This will give you more time for foreplay, more time to help you explore other erotic materials (like books or movies), and more time to switch up your sex routine should you choose to do so.
Finally, non-coital behaviors that don’t involve intercourse can help you and your partner relax build closer connections. This can be as simple as a massage, a quiet candlelit dinner, or just taking more time to do an activity, you both love.
4. What can I do about vaginal dryness?
About 50-60% of menopausal women experience vaginal dryness, so it’s one of the most common menopause symptoms. Healthy Women recommends no longer using soap on the inner parts of your vulva, as soap can potentially irritate sensitive skin (clean water is A-ok for washing). Next, use only white and undyed, unscented toilet paper. Be sure to wash your underwear in detergents that are free of dyes or scents (there are a few out there specifically designed for sensitive skin) and avoid fabric softener. Finally, avoid any perfumes or bubble baths that could cause irritation.
Using a water-based vaginal moisturizer can help tremendously for dryness during menopause. Be sure to choose one with hyaluronic acid and vitamin E, both of which are proven for restoring and maintaining moisture.
Read more about vaginal dryness in our blog post, 7 Biggest Myths About Vaginal Dryness.
5. Do Kegel exercises work?
Kegels can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, and, if done correctly, can help prevent urinary incontinence. But Kegels alone won’t restore the collagen and elastin that is often lost as a result of vaginal atrophy.
6. Is vaginal atrophy a real thing?
Yep. More than half of menopausal women experience vaginal atrophy (although many women don’t seek medical treatment for it). It typically consists of thinning, drying, and inflammation of the vaginal walls as a result of low estrogen. The good news is that having sex regularly (with or without a partner) can actually help keep your vaginal tissue healthy and fend off atrophy. All the more reason to prioritize your sex life during menopause!
7. Do I still have to worry about sexually transmitted infections after menopause?
Yes! It’s possible to contract STIs at any point in your life – whether it’s before, after, or during menopause. Your risk for contracting them doesn’t go down as the result of age or other life changes. Be sure to use protection when you’re engaging with a new partner. Oh, and one more thing: if you’re experiencing perimenopause, it’s important to remember that you can still get pregnant. If that’s a concern, you’ll want to use birth control, too.
Prioritize a healthy sex life during menopause
A decreased sexual desire is the reality for many menopausal women, but the good news is that it’s 100% treatable with the right attention. Communication, education, and effort for both you and your partner are key for improving your sex drive during menopause.