Menopause is a significant stage in a woman's life, marking the permanent cessation of menstrual periods and the closing of the window for pregnancy. This natural process is primarily driven by changes in reproductive hormone levels. While it typically occurs between the ages of 47 and 54, the timing can vary, with some women experiencing it earlier and others later. A definitive sign of menopause is the absence of menstruation for 12 consecutive months.
However, despite being a natural transition, menopause can bring about a range of symptoms, including a potential decrease in sex drive. While not all women experience reduced libido (some may even see an increase), it's a prevalent issue. Research indicates that around 42% of women encounter sexual dysfunction in the early perimenopausal stage (the years leading up to menopause). As they progress through menopause, approximately 88% of women face similar challenges.
The diversity of symptoms and their varying intensity underscores the commonality of this issue and emphasizes the importance of dispelling the stigmas surrounding it. Experiencing menopause does not mean giving up on the fulfilling sex life you desire.
Why do you have a low sex drive during menopause?
Menopause often accompanies a declining sex drive, and several factors contribute to this phenomenon.
The primary cause of reduced libido during menopause is the decline in hormone levels, particularly testosterone and estrogen. These hormonal changes can make it more challenging to become sexually aroused. Furthermore, diminishing hormones can lead to decreased sensitivity, resulting in a reduction in sexual desire.
Lower hormone levels also contribute to issues such as vaginal dryness and tightness, which can result from decreased natural moisture. This, in turn, can lead to a loss of vaginal elasticity, making the tissues more vulnerable to thinning and tearing. The discomfort, pain, and potential bleeding during sex caused by these changes naturally reduce one's inclination for sexual activity.
Additionally, menopause can bring about other symptoms that further diminish the desire for sex. These may encompass feelings of depression, mood swings, weight gain, and hot flashes, among others.
The good news is that numerous effective treatments are available to address these concerns. It's primarily a matter of discovering the approach that works best for you.
What are you gonna do?
Embrace Your Own Pace
Despite the portrayals in mainstream media, sexual activity in later years is not a universal desire for everyone. As Chris Kraft from John's Hopkins Medicine notes, approximately one-third of long-term couples either abstain from sex or engage in it occasionally, and they find contentment in their choices. They focus on alternative intimate activities, like cuddling, sharing a bed, and enjoying each other's company. It's essential to reflect on your own feelings regarding sexual desire and consider whether external pressures, whether from a partner or society, influence your decisions.
Pursue What You Desire
If you desire an active and fulfilling sex life regardless of your age, this is entirely valid and should be respected. Don't let anyone discourage you. If you're determined to maintain or rekindle your sexual vitality, approach it gradually, exploratively, without pressure, and with ample foreplay or extended solo sessions. If you've been experiencing pain or discomfort during sex, consult a pelvic floor therapist who may recommend exercises like Kegels to strengthen pelvic muscles and enhance sensation, or a dilator kit to rebuild your tolerance for penetration. Your body isn't flawed; it simply requires more care and attention to achieve its objectives.
Savor the Journey
There's no predetermined timetable for becoming aroused or reaching orgasm, a message relevant to people of all ages. Relish the process and give yourself the time you need to become sexually aroused. Foreplay can and should be as imaginative as you desire. Whether through sensual touch, massages, reading or listening to erotica, or watching feminist, ethical pornography, the options are endless. Take the opportunity to rediscover what arouses you. If your partner is pushing you to rush, this may necessitate a serious discussion about priorities.
If you're dealing with dryness-related irritation or friction, don't hesitate to use lubricants to your heart's content. Water-based and long-lasting silicone-based lubricants can significantly reduce the discomfort of penetration. Choosing the right lube for your specific needs is essential to ensure a pleasurable experience with your chosen products. Additionally, consider using vaginal moisturizers, which are not just for immediate use but can be applied regularly over an extended period.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial, and this applies to all stages of life, not just menopause. A nutritious diet can positively impact your libido, while regular exercise can enhance hormone levels, including cortisol, estrogen, prolactin, oxytocin, serotonin, and testosterone. These hormones play vital roles in your sexual well-being. Testosterone, in particular, has been shown to influence sexual desire, irrespective of gender, with higher levels correlating with increased libido.
Explore New Horizons
Your body is undergoing changes, and so might your desires. Embrace menopause as an opportunity, not that you need one, to explore new experiences. Consider trying out different sex toys, positions, or approaches such as tantric sex. Experiment with various types of play like role play, edge play, bondage, or BDSM. You might find that a powerful vibrator helps address reduced sensitivity. If intimacy for its own sake becomes more central to your desire, remember that sex is just one aspect of feeling close to your partner. Acts like kissing, caressing, cuddling, and other nonsexual interactions can deepen your bond and potentially boost your sex drive.
Consult a Healthcare Professional
If other strategies don't yield the desired results, it's a good idea to consult with a doctor about hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT may involve estrogen in the form of pills, cream, or a vaginal ring to address vaginal dryness and atrophy by replenishing hormones that your body no longer produces. Testosterone therapy may also be considered to help increase your libido. However, it's crucial to be aware of potential serious risks associated with HRT, so make sure to have a thorough discussion with a healthcare professional before pursuing this option.
In conclusion, regardless of the changes you're experiencing, maintaining open communication with your partner and with yourself is essential. Share your physical and emotional experiences with your partner, as feeling more connected can be a powerful turn-on. If needed, don't hesitate to seek guidance from a therapist, either individually or as a couple.