Though menopause does often bring with it a decrease in sex drive, it does not have to mark the end of your sex life. Every woman’s experience is different, and many report even better sex after menopause. No one can predict what your experience will be, but having answers to your questions can help you be prepared for what lies ahead.
1. Will my sex drive suddenly disappear when I hit menopause?
No. It’s natural for both men and women to experience a gradual decrease in sex drive with age — for women, that age is typically in the late 40s or early 50s. But the experience 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. But for others, it becomes a source of distress that can put a strain on their personal relationships. Hypoactive sexual desire disorder is fairly common among postmenopausal women.
2. What causes decreased sexual desire after menopause?
Loss of estrogen and testosterone is often the culprit behind a lower sex drive, but there are a few other reasons it might happen. Certain medications have side effects that include decreased sexual desire, and other menopause symptoms can get in the way of an otherwise healthy desire. Everything from hot flashes to sleeplessness can take a toll on a body and make sex feel like a lower priority. Vaginal dryness can make sex challenging or painful. Finally, depression and mood swings factor in, too. Both can lead to a decreased interest in sex.
3. Is it possible to increase my sex drive after menopause?
Yes. First, see your doctor to rule out 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 you 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. 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 routine should you choose to do so.
Finally, activities that don’t involve intercourse can help you and your partner build a closer connection. This can be as simple as a massage, a candlelit dinner, or just doing something you both love.
4. What can I do about vaginal dryness?
About half of menopausal women experience vaginal dryness. Healthy Women recommends that you don’t use soap on the inner parts of your vulva, as soap can potentially irritate sensitive skin (clean water is OK for washing). Next, use only white and undyed, unscented toilet paper. Be sure to wash your underwear in detergent that is free of dye or scent (there are a few specifically for sensitive skin) and avoid fabric softener. Finally, avoid body wash or bubble bath if you experience irritation.
Using a water-based vaginal moisturizer can help tremendously for the dryness associated with menopause. Choose a product with hyaluronic acid and vitamin E, both of which are proven to restore and maintain moisture.
5. Is vaginal atrophy a real thing?
Yes. More than half of menopausal women experience vaginal atrophy (although many women don’t seek medical treatment for it). It typically shows up as 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 help keep your vaginal tissue healthy and fend off atrophy.
6. Do Kegel exercises work in the fight against vaginal atrophy?
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.
7. Do I still have to worry about sexually transmitted infections?
Yes! It’s possible to contract an STI at any point in your sexual life. In fact, the rate of STIs in older Americans has risen in recent years. Always use protection when you’re engaging with a new partner. You can also still get pregnant if you’re still having periods, no matter how sporadically. If that’s a concern, use birth control, too.
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