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How Does Menopause Affect Sexual Function?

Sex after menopause—what should you expect?

Loss of libido, vaginal dryness, and uncomfortable sex are some of the most common menopause symptoms that affect sexual function. These symptoms can be caused by the hormone changes that occur during menopause and the stress that comes with it. Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate these symptoms so you can experience enjoyable sex after menopause! 

Will I Experience a Decreased Sex Drive With Menopause?

Midlife couple cuddling on couch

Every woman has her own unique experience with menopause, and not all women have the same degree of severity of menopause symptoms. 

While menopause may cause a decrease in sex drive in some women, others may find that their sex life is more enjoyable without the worry of an unplanned pregnancy.

Hormonal and Body Changes

Throughout your menopause journey, you may experience physical changes as a result of declining estrogen levels. Body changes that can affect sexual function include: 

    • Vaginal discomfort — Vaginal walls become thinner, dryer, and less lubricated, making sex uncomfortable. 
    • Slowed sexual response — A woman may experience a loss of sensitivity to touch, making it more challenging to get aroused and reach orgasm, and she may find her orgasms have become less intense. 
    • Discomfort from physical symptoms —  Bothersome symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia can make a woman feel emotionally and physically exhausted, resulting in a reduced interest in sex. 
    • Weight gain — Your metabolism may slow down, resulting in extra weight that can have a negative impact on a woman's self-image, making her feel less sexually attractive.

Have you been noticing any of these physical changes? Take a look here to learn more about the signs and symptoms of perimenopause.

Emotional and Psychological Changes

Woman stressed in midlife

Enjoyable sex requires a mind-body connection, which is why paying attention to your mental health throughout menopause is crucial. Emotional and psychological changes that can negatively impact sexual interest and function include: 

  • Mood swings
  • Stress
  • Irritability 
  • Anxiety and depression 
  • Fatigue 
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Lowered self-image and feeling of being undesirable 

Making healthy lifestyle changes can help boost your libido and overall sense of happiness. Some examples include finding ways to relax through meditation and exercise, fueling your body with healthy foods, eliminating sugar and alcohol, and talking to a therapist.

Did you know up to 50% of women will experience sexual dysfunction at some point in their life? Click here to learn about our female sexual dysfunction services and get the help and support you need.

How Sex Changes After Menopause

Couple holding hands

Becoming less interested in sex as we age is not necessarily uncommon or unnatural. Menopause, physical aches, injuries, and the less energy we experience as we mature can all contribute to a lack of sexual interest. 

There’s no right or wrong number of times you should be having sex during or after menopause. Although, if your lower sex drive is causing you or your partner distress, it may be beneficial to explore ways that can help boost sexual desire with or without a partner. 

If you are in a relationship, it’s essential to be open to your partner about how you’re feeling. Talking to a couples counselor can help you and your partner work through any intimacy worries and help ease the pressure and anxiety you may be experiencing from loss of libido.


How to Increase Sex Drive After Menopause

It is possible to live a healthier life and naturally increase your desire for sex after menopause with these helpful tips: 

  • Eat a balanced and healthy diet 
  • Get regular exercise 
  • Find ways to strengthen your mental health and self-confidence
  • Manage stress through talk therapy, meditation, or yoga 

Trying different forms of sex outside of intercourse can also help increase sexual interest and desire. For example, oral sex, manual stimulation, caressing, and incorporating sex toys are all ways you can reach orgasm without penetration. Don't be afraid to explore new sexual enhancement creams, vaginal lubricants, and moisturizers to increase your pleasure. 

Click here for our “Yoga for Menopause” guide, which walks you through the top eight yoga poses that have been shown to help manage menopause symptoms like stress, anxiety, and depression.

Treating Vaginal Dryness  

When estrogen levels decline with menopause, the vaginal walls become thinner, and vaginal secretions and moisture lessen. This lack of lubrication can make sex uncomfortable, eventually leading to a loss of interest and libido. 

Symptoms of vaginal dryness include: 

  • Irritation, burning, or itching 
  • Bleeding after intercourse 
  • Pain or discomfort during penetrative sexual intercourse 
  • Increased urinary tract and vaginal infections  
  • Anxiety and depression 

Over-the-counter vaginal lubricants and moisturizers can help ease many of these symptoms. Regularly partaking in sexual activity (with or without a partner) can also help increase blood flow to the vagina and maintain vaginal lubrication and elasticity, making sex more comfortable and enjoyable.

If you experience any unwanted symptoms, talk to your Moreland OB-GYN provider about topical or systemic hormone replacement therapy, which can help alleviate vaginal dryness by replacing declining estrogen levels.

The Importance of Safe Sex After Menopause

Even after menopause, it's critical to practice safe sex. Often, women believe it's okay not to use barrier contraception because they can no longer get pregnant, although catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or disease is still possible. In fact, the vaginal environment after menopause makes it even more likely to get an STI.

If you are not in a monogamous relationship, it’s critical you follow these steps to help protect yourself from STIs: 

  • Use a condom every time you have sex 
  • Limit your number of sexual partners 
  • Choose your sex partners with care 
  • Regularly get checked for STIs 
  • Know the signs and symptoms of STIs 
  • Ask a potential sex partner to be checked for STIs 

Schedule an appointment today and request an STI screening test.

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How to Talk to Your OB-GYN About Sex After Menopause

Loss of libido, vaginal dryness, and uncomfortable sex is not simply a part of aging. It’s possible to continue having a healthy and fulfilling sex life during and after menopause. 

If painful sex is something you’re experiencing, talk to your Moreland OB-GYN provider. Being open and honest about your symptoms and concerns can help your doctor decide the best treatment course. 

At Moreland OB-GYN, we are proud to have Menopause Practitioners certified by the North Amerian Menopause Society on staff. All of our trusting and caring providers are dedicated to helping women transition through menopause with ease and comfort. 

We hope you’ll contact us today to schedule an appointment so you can start to enjoy sex after menopause. We will take the time to listen to any concerns you have about menopause and the years beyond.

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