As Kathy Phillips approached menopause, she thought back to her mother’s experience of the transition. In Phillips’ memories, when her mother went through menopause, she started dressing old and actually got old.
Phillips, 57, worried she was going to follow in her mother’s footsteps, but that wasn’t her experience. “It’s not like that at all. You can still be extremely sexy and have gone through menopause,” Phillips said.
In fact, her midlife transition brought more self-confidence and sexual awareness. As Phillips discovered, menopause can bring new challenges, but that doesn’t mean that it has to say goodbye to a good and satisfying sex life.
“You can absolutely have an exciting sex life well into your 80s and 90s,” said Heather Bartos, gynecologist and member of HealthyWomen’s Women’s Health Advisory Council. “There’s this myth that later in middle age we don’t have relationships, we don’t worry about orgasm or sexual health in general,” said Bartos.
But that’s far from true.
What to Expect
As a woman approaches menopause, the ovaries stop producing estrogen, which leads to thinning and a loss of flexibility and lubrication in the vagina – which can make sex painful and crack – as well as changes in sexual desire.
“Many women don’t even associate these changes with menopause,” said Stephanie Faubion, medical director of the North American Menopause Society and director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Women’s Health. “These changes are related to the loss of estrogen and are treatable.”
Prompt treatment can prevent further cracking and infection. Bartos and Faubion recommend women use some form of vaginal estrogen to prevent further thinning and dryness. Some women may receive hormone therapy to treat other menopausal symptoms, but local hormones may also be needed to manage vaginal symptoms.
Bartos recommends that women suffering from dryness use a thick, creamy lubricant for sexual intercourse and communicate with their partner what feels good and what hurts.
Some women also have lower levels of sexual desire, mainly due to the lack of estrogen. “There’s a shift from a more spontaneous desire pattern to a more responsive sexual desire pattern where [given the] Right place, right time, right partner, right situation, the woman is ready to be sexual, but she may not have spontaneous sexual thoughts or fantasies. ”
When patients come to her and complain about a lower sex drive, Bartos asks her more about what’s going on outside of the bedroom, which could potentially reduce her desire for sex.
“There are many components to low libido, such as stress, anxiety, and depression,” said Bartos.
In order to have a healthy and comfortable sex life, women should take care of both their mental and physical health and relationships. Mental disorders and some psychotropic drugs can affect aspects of sexual function such as: B. the desire and the ability to orgasm. If this is a problem for women, they can speak to their doctor to find alternative treatments.
For women with same-sex partners, there is the added consideration that both could have the same effects of menopause at the same time. When both partners have lower levels of sexual desire, Faubion advises that they be more sex conscious and even allow time for it. “It’s harder when nobody thinks about it,” said Faubion.
Also, some women may experience less intense orgasms than they did before menopause. One solution is to use vibrators, which can provide more intense stimulation than sexual intercourse. “We recommend using a vibrator for women that can help with both arousal and orgasm,” said Faubion.
Menopause can also change what feels good during sex, but women can experiment with vibrators, masturbation, or sex toys to see what works best for them now. “It’s a great time to experiment because then you know what works for you,” said Bartos.
Menopausal women should also be aware of the risks of sexually transmitted diseases and infections. “While you don’t need a condom to prevent pregnancy, you still need a condom to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases,” Faubion said.
But condoms don’t protect against everything and can break. “It’s worth coming in and getting tested to see if you’re in a new relationship,” said Bartos. In addition to testing, women should communicate with sexual partners about their health.
The median age of menopause in the United States is 51 years. During this time, women are often mentally approaching a new phase in their life. Many women attribute improvements in their sex life after menopause to improved self-awareness and self-confidence.
“Women are not concerned about getting pregnant, so sex is not for reproduction, it is for recreation,” Faubion said. She added that for mothers, children may be away from home and women may have more time to cultivate relationships.
That was Phillips’ experience. Sex with her husband is more closely related. “As you get older, intimacy takes on another level,” she said. “You are more in tune with your body.” Sex may not be as common as it used to be, but Phillips said for her that sex has become more intimate and intense. “You are becoming more and more aware of who you are and sexually you are not that inhibited,” said Phillips.
In her 20s and 30s, Phillips felt more pressure to look attractive, but as she got older, she has become more confident in her body. “It’s very liberating,” she said. “I’m confident in who I am and that helps with the sexual experience.”
A big part of her sexual satisfaction is perspective rather than thinking about the things that she might be missing in her younger years. She described her young adult years as a chapter in a book.
“That’s a chapter of a book, your 20s, 30s, and 40s, and as you turn this page, you can turn or close that page slowly and gracefully [the book] Shut up, “Phillips said. Menopause does not mark the end of the story of your sex life, but a new chapter.
“And sexually it’s great.”