Love-making is often when many women first notice vaginal discomfort, hormonal changes in perimenopause makes sex less enjoyable and downright uncomfortable!
Sex And The Menopause!
Too tired to have sex?
Feeling distant from your partner?
Finding it hurts to have penetrative sex?
Do any of these sound familiar?
Many women experience sexual problems around the perimenopause and menopause. This can have a massive impact on self-confidence and relationships. Understanding the cause of these difficulties is not always straightforward; making it tricky to find a solution.
It’s no surprise that women are most likely to divorce between the ages of 45-49 - often the perimenopausal years when hormones start to fluctuate and menopause symptoms like fatigue, vaginal dryness and loss of libido can all begin. Because many women will still be having periods they don’t always realise what is happening and attribute it to the demands of daily life or a problem in the relationship.
“I just don’t experience the same sexual urges anymore”
“My partner just doesn’t understand why I don’t want to have sex”
Why do women stop wanting to have sex? Vaginal dryness is very common at this stage and can make penetration uncomfortable and even painful. In addition, many women find their desire to have sex disappears. Both are very normal symptoms of hormonal decline but if there is no understanding of why this is all happening, it can be difficult to talk about. In fact, only a quarter of menopausal women seek help for vaginal dryness and suffer in silence.
What causes vaginal dryness and loss of libido? Menopause occurs when our ovaries stop releasing eggs every month, eventually causing our periods to stop. As a result, oestrogen levels fall, which affects many parts of our bodies including our skin, hair, heart, bones &vagina. However, our hormones can start fluctuating years before our periods actually stop. This is called the ‘perimenopause’ and menopause symptoms can often be worse during this time.
Physical impact of declining oestrogen Oestrogen helps to keep the vagina moist and plump as it encourages the production of secretions from glands inside the vagina. These secretions help to keep the vaginal tissues hydrated and supple, so they can stretch and expand as required for either sex or childbirth. As levels of oestrogen fall and we transition through the menopause, the tissues around our vagina can become thinner, dryer and more inflamed, making sex and even day to day activities uncomfortable. It can take months or years for these symptoms to develop and vary between women.
Love-making is often when many women first notice vaginal discomfort as the lack of oestrogen may cause the vagina to shrink a little and expand less easily during sex making penetration uncomfortable and less enjoyable.
Emotional impact of loss of libido Progesterone and testosterone levels also fluctuate during this time which can cause a reduction in libido. This can sometimes trigger feelings of anxiety and depression.
The pain caused by having a dry, sore vagina can also cause a loss in libido.
The more sex is avoided, the more our relationships suffer…..particularly if we are not talking about the problem.
There are lots of way to improve intimacy and love-making during the menopausal years.
Good diet and regular exercise are absolutely vital to our mental and physical wellbeing. Foods rich in magnesium, potassium and zinc, such as spinach, pine nuts, and sweet potatoes, can help decrease inflammation and improve blood flow to your vagina, and increase testosterone which should give your libido a boost. And it may be a bit cheesy, but oysters are bursting with zinc, so it might be worth a try!
Exercise as we all know is good for the heart, but did you know it’s good for your vagina too? Improved blood flow will help keep your vaginal tissues in top shape. Regular exercise also releases endorphins, and is a well documented mood booster, so may help combat those bouts of menopause associated low mood.
We’ve included a number of practical solutions to combat both vaginal dryness and libido:
1. Talk to your partner
Tell them how you feel. This may not be easy. Particularly if you have been distant for a while. They may have come to the assumption that you didn’t want to have sex because you didn’t fancy them anymore. They may be relieved to know that isn’t the case! Being open and honest will help you reconnect and together you can find a way forward.
2. Spend quality time together Take time to enjoy each other’s company. Just go out and do something you both enjoy. Remember why you fell in love with them. Remember why you fell in love with them. In our busy everyday life juggling chores, work, kids, elderly parents we often forget to prioritise our relationships.As women we are more inclined to feel like having sex if we are feeling happy and cherished. If we are worrying about whether the bins have been put out of if the packed lunches have been made we are less likely to feel like having sex that night.
3. Create the right atmosphere Sometimes it helps to create a ‘sexy’ atmosphere. It may take time but it will be worth it. Have a candlelit bath together, play songs that are important to you both, dim lighting……all work to create a romantic atmosphere and help us forget those bins!
4.Don’t be scared to play! Remember there is more to sex than penetration. Foreplay…kissing, touching, and caressing can all be equally arousing and intimate. Don’t be scared to play out fantasies or experiment with sex toys, many of which have been designed for women wanting to overcome sex problems. Visit www.sh-womenstore.com to find out more.
5.A good quality lube A good quality lubricant like NHS approved Sylk will help you feel more relaxed and aroused.You can also use it to massage the vaginal area and your partners penis as well as using it to make penetrative sex more slippery and smooth. Make sure the lubricant you use is water based so you can use it with condoms and sex toys, is pH friendly (around 4.5) and is non-drying. Visit Sylk for a free sample. In addition, you may want to talk to your GP about local oestrogen andHormone Replacement Therapy.
6. Take the pressure off Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. We all think everyone is having more sex than we are, but they’re probably not. What’s important is the connection between you and your partner, nothing else matters. Take your time and keep talking! One of the big keys to having a good sex life is to have lots of sex. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? But often the longer we avoid sex, the harder it can be to get back into the swing of it. Emotional barriers strengthen, and penetration becomes more difficult as the vaginal tissues become thinner and more severely atrophied. Having regular sex with a good, moisturising lubricant like Sylk can really help maintain the elasticity of the vagina, so keep going!
Of course, it’s not easy to move past these barriers once they are in place. If you’re still struggling, go and see your GP who can talk to you about available treatments like HRT and local oestrogen or a registered, specialist sex and relationship therapist. They will offer confidential individual or couples therapy to help you overcome these barriers - find out more by visiting COSRT.