Are You Worried About Your Menopause Sex Drive? | Stella
Sex & relationships
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Menopause sex drive – what’s happening?

byEmily Turner

About a third of women deal say their menopause sex drive is different. Fluctuating hormone levels and menopause symptoms can play havoc with your interest in sex, what sex feels like and your body confidence. We’ve got some ideas to help you keep it joyful between the sheets when it comes to menopause and sex.

I need to know if sex is part of my future”

Mary

Women’s magazines often tell us we will have fewer body hang-ups and more self confidence as we age. This liberation should combine into a heady mix that makes sex during menopause super fun! The reality is that menopause and sex can be far from simple and ecstasy can seem like a long-lost friend. Find out more about the stages of menopause.

If you want it to, sex can be fun, pleasurable and play a part in your future. Menopausal symptoms are less likely to sabotage your sex life if you know which problems you might face, how to deal with them and what relief is available. 

Top five things to help menopause sex drive

  1. Loss of libido: Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and testosterone therapy can help bring back your burning yearning for sex.

  2. Vaginal changes (uterus prolapse, vaginal atrophy, itching, burning or painful sex): HRT, vaginal pessaries, oestrogen creams, vaginal rings, oestrogen gels, non-oestrogen creams and oral tablets and lubricants can help.

  3. Loss of confidence, anxiety and depression: Change the way you think and behave with cognitive behaviour therapy and relax with mindfulness and yoga practice. 

  4. Feeling stressed: Get your lifestyle under control by eating healthily and getting plenty of exercise and sleep. Keep calm with deep breathing techniques. Feeling in control can improve your body confidence and esteem.

  5. Trouble peeing: Try pelvic floor exercises, where you contract and relax your pelvic floor muscles. They can help you control leaks during sex. Strong pelvic floor muscles can also mean increased sensitivity during sex and stronger orgasms – which makes doing them worthwhile!

Does menopause mean the end of your sex life?

It’s a myth that menopause and sex isn’t enjoyable or possible. While you don’t have to hold a leaving party for your sexual fulfillment just yet, it’s possible you may face some challenges along the way. 

Some menopausal symptoms mean getting in the mood to ‘get your freak on’ can be difficult, especially if you’re finding it hard to think of yourself as desirable when there are sweats, leaks, aches and pains. Just remember, you’ll always be your harshest critic.

You might not be able to have the night-after-night energetic sex sessions of your youth, but menopause and sex can be pleasurable with a little creativity and experimenting. The first step is to identify the menopause symptoms which make sex difficult and try different treatments. 

Some women even say their orgasms are more intense postmenopause, so there could even be a benefit in the future!

What is a normal menopause sex drive?

Let’s get real for a moment about sex in menopause. Women with overwhelming menopausal symptoms may want to have sex less often, or not at all, and that is completely understandable. Some may even fear sex if it is painful. This undoubtedly impacts menopause sex drive.

If you want to have sex and talk to your doctor, it may take a while to find treatments which work to control symptoms or to build confidence. You need to do what is right for you. The only normal menopause sex drive is the one that feels right for you and your body.

It can be deeply upsetting and frustrating when your menopause sex drive just dwindles to nothing. It can leave you with a sense of loss, guilt and shame which feeds a negative thought pattern affecting your confidence and esteem. Then add on the impact of reduced intimacy on your relationship and it can leave you reeling. Some women have described it as feeling like grief.

My husband no longer thought I could deliver and I couldn’t assure him it would get better. I would have sought solutions more quickly, if I had known menopause wasn’t the end of my sex life”

Zinat

Why is menopause libido different?

It can be confusing and upsetting when parts of your body that usually give such joy start malfunctioning and return a ‘404 error’ warning when it comes to menopause sex drive. 

The blame for menopause libido lies squarely with declining levels of oestrogen during menopause, which can lower your desire for sex with your partner or even with yourself. Feeling turned on just switches off when you pile on the pressures you face each day – work, teenage kids, elderly parents, medication – and dealing with hormonal fluctuations.

What’s happening to your genitals?

  • During menopause, blood takes longer to reach your genitals and it is more difficult to become aroused 
  • You may find it takes longer to orgasm as your sensitivity decreases
  • Your vagina may be drier and vaginal walls thinner and less elastic, which can make sex uncomfortable and even painful
  • Some women experience bleeding from vaginal skin tears, itching and burning, as well as prolapses and leaking urine

If this list has got you fearing the worst, don’t despair! There is a huge range of vaginal oestrogen and non-oestrogen treatments to help, including creams, gels, pessaries and tablets, as well as other treatments. 

Try experimenting with positions that cause less friction and with a greater emphasis on stimulating your clitoris. Use sex toys and hands to help get you there, rather than relying on penetration alone.

Remember it is totally ok to talk to your doctor about your sex life and any issues you are facing.

Difficulties to look out for

These menopause symptoms can cause issues sex after menopause or sex during menopause:

  • Loss of libido – less interest in having sex
  • Hot flushes – a sudden rush of intense heat and sweat
  • Anxiety – issues with body image, confidence and self-esteem 
  • Vaginal dryness – painful sex
  • Vaginal atrophy – when your vaginal walls are less elastic and the vagina shortens and narrows
  • Urinary tract infections – frequent need to go pee
  • Vaginal discharge – watery discharge
  • Tiredness – disrupted sleep
  • Breast soreness – painful to touch

Sex after menopause

Sex after menopause can become uncomfortable, in terms of pain and dryness. If this is your experience, talk to your doctor as there are many treatments you can try. Sometimes there is nothing like reading the experience of other women when it comes to sex after menopause. Read how Louise managed to overcome vaginal atrophy, which caused blood blisters and disrupted her sex life. Topical oestrogen and emollient creams worked wonders for her. If you’ve become dry and itchy, or sex is painful, read Kwavi’s experience. She found relief with suppository lubricants.

Menopause sex drive and your brain

You may feel unlike yourself, overwhelmed and lost as you go through menopause. It’s a steep learning curve trying to understand the different phases of menopause and associated symptoms. A supportive environment is important. Talking to your partner, friends and family can help them understand what’s happening to you and how you are feeling.

Better communication about sex with your partner can avoid feelings of rejection or pressure, even bring you closer together. After all, intimacy is about emotional closeness and not just earth-shattering orgasms. Read JP’s story on the conversations you need for intimacy and more on how to improve your emotional and sexual intimacy with your partner.

Find out more about menopause on our blog.