Menopause for women has always had its share of ‘challenges.’ Hot flashes, night sweats, bloating, mood swings, fatigue, weight gain, vaginal dryness, are a sampling of what women can likely expect when they go through this change of life. However, there’s one more challenge to add to this list – changes to sexuality.
Lookup a definition of sexuality and what you’ll find are many variations of this term. In regards to female sexuality, it generally pertains to a woman’s body image, her self-esteem, personality and attitudes, and what factors determine a woman’s sexual desire.
Sex and menopause
Going through menopause is usually viewed as a part of aging bringing physical changes in a woman’s body weight or shape. Some women may experience great dissatisfaction with these bodily changes while other women simply view it as an expected part of growing older. Either way, it’s not unusual to have a decline in sexual activity or a sense of sexuality sometimes due to these changes.
Part of this decline is attributed to the hormonal changes taking place during and after menopause. For instance, the sex hormones of testosterone and DHEA have a direct impact on arousal, excitement, and orgasm in women. Diminishing estrogen reduces vaginal lubrication and thins the genital tissues, causing painful intercourse for some women. There are recommendations by doctors to help women enjoy sex for years to come. These may include natural hormone replacement therapy, using lubricants, engaging in a more creative sex play with less focus on intercourse, and embracing an overall broader definition of intimacy with one’s partner to maximize sexual satisfaction for women. In fact, some women may find that sexuality actually gets better over time even if it takes a different form.
Menopause’s impact on libido
For women, sexual interest and excitement often hinge on feeling intimately close with their partner. If women are afraid to be vulnerable telling their partner what turns them on, can snuff out any sparks of arousal right from the start. Another negative impact on women’s sexuality is feeling caught between society’s mixed messages of being a sex siren in the bedroom while trying to balance not appearing ‘too sexy or easy.”And body image and being uncomfortable to display her body or feeling the pressure on women to stay young also affects sex and sexuality in women.
How to restore women’s sexuality after menopause
Any woman experiencing a decline in her sex life or sexuality during or after menopause, know that there are steps to restore it. Taking back this intimate part of their life can bring back not only physical intimacy but emotional intimacy and wellbeing also. Let’s take a look at steps towards this goal:
- Start by seeing your doctor for a complete physical examination to rule out any underlying medical conditions that can be treated. While it can be difficult to talk about sexual problems, your doctor is a valuable resource or can refer you to other professionals.
- Any woman taking prescribed or OTC medication or dietary supplements may be experiencing side effects interfering with sexual function. These may include drugs for hypertension, diabetes, cancer, depressions, and anxiety. Speak with your doctor first before discontinuing any prescribed medication.
- If you smoke, quit. Smoking can negatively affect sexual functioning in women, among other serious health issues.
- Discuss with your doctor using the lowest dose possible for a short period of time of testosterone therapy. When taken together with estrogen – using patches, creams, or gels – it can bring back a stronger desire for sex.
- It is recommended not to use sexual enhancement supplements sold in drug/health food stores or on the internet. Many of them contain various herbs, vitamins, and other nutritional ingredients but none of these supplements have been proven to be safe and effective.
- Many women during or after menopause have vaginal dryness. During menopause, prescription estrogen creams, tablets, and rings for vaginal use may help but also OTC lubricants can provide relief with no known side effects.
- Embrace this time of your life. Following healthy habits, exercising, enjoying hobbies, traveling, or spending time with people you love, can be some of the most effective ways to rekindle your sexuality helping you see the accomplished woman you are at this time of your life.