Menopause and Sexual Drive
Just when you think that you've finally got menopause under control, one of the biggest hurdles yet comes flying right at you you are no longer interested in sex. Loss of sexual desire is one of the most common symptoms of menopause, with somewhere between 20% and 45% of menopausal women reporting a decrease in their sex drive. If you are frustrated by this lack of libido, read on and find out what you can do to improve your sex life after menopause.
Attitudes Towards Sex after Menopause
Sex during and after menopause has always been an issue of great debate and every woman feels a different way about it. In the past, sexual intercourse after menopause was viewed with horror. Many people wondered how "elderly", infertile women dared to satisfy their sexual urges once they had lost their baby-making abilities. Menopausal women were not seen as women, but instead as sexless beings who had no business engaging in bedroom shenanigans. Thankfully, this view about sex during menopause is slowly but surely changing and sex and menopause is now a topic that is open for discussion.
Menopausal women are now understood to be as female as they ever were. Most women who are experiencing menopause take it upon themselves to continue their sexual life. Yet, many menopausal women face a lot of problems on the sexual front. Having to deal with mood swings, hot flashes, depression, and vaginal dryness that makes sex painful it's no wonder many menopausal women seem to loose their interest in sex. However, it is important to know that you are not alone. A lot can be done to help you increase your libido and feel more comfortable with your changing body.
Causes of Decreased Sex Drive
During menopause, sex drive can drop to very low levels. Some women find they don't think about sex nearly as much as they used to before menopause. Others find they want to have sex, but just aren't enjoying it enough to make it worth the effort. Decreased libido is thought to be due to lowered levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone present in your body during menopause.
Each of these hormones has a specific role to play in making you experience sexual desire. Estrogen helps you to feel heightened sensitivity during sexual intercourse. Progesterone keeps your libido up. Testosterone, a male sex hormone, boosts sexual desire and lubricates your vagina. When these hormones drop, so does your overall desire for sexual intercourse.
The symptoms that come along with menopause often don't make you feel much like having sex either. Just a few of the symptoms that may be decreasing your libido or causing you to avoid sex include:
Vaginal dryness, a common complaint of menopausal and perimenopausal women, can make your vagina too delicate to handle penetration. Declining estrogen levels prevent increased blood flow from traveling to your pelvis. The result is the thinning of your vaginal walls, and less lubrication during sex. Intercourse can range from uncomfortable to extremely painful, and can even cause spotting or light bleeding. Many women simply cannot feel the desire for sex because of painful intercourse in menopause.
Constantly having to deal with hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia can leave you feeling very tired and irritable. When you are this fatigued, the last thing you probably want to do is have sex.
Mood Swings and Depression
Constant mood swings can make it difficult to plan sex in advance, or get into sex while it's happening. You may feel up to sex one minute, but you may be completely against it the next. Many menopausal women also suffer from mild or major depression. Feelings of guilt, unhappiness, and frustration can really cause your libido to drop. Certain antidepressants can also result in a lowered sex drive.
Self-image is often a major factor in a woman's sex drive. If you feel uncomfortable with the way your body has changed during menopause, you may not be willing or able to share physical intimacy with someone else. Incontinence, weight gain, and changes in your skin and breasts can all affect the way you feel about your sexuality. Women who have undergone surgical menopause often have a very difficult time accepting their new bodies.
While many women are happy with their new lowered sex drive and do not wish to seek treatment, a variety of treatment options are available if you are experiencing a lowered sex drive as a result of menopause. If low libido interferes with personal relationships, it may be a sign that it is becoming problematic. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and choose a treatment option that's right or you.
- Lubricants: Using lubricants during sex can make intercourse less painful and more enjoyable. Though lubricants will not provide long-term relief for your low libido, it can provide temporary relief.
- Hormone Creams: Hormone creams that contain estrogen can be applied to the vagina in order to increase blood flow. This blood flow should allow for increased sensitivity and easier orgasm.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): HRT is still viewed as the most successful menopause treatment. While HRT may not boost your libido chemically, it can help reduce other symptoms that may be complicating your sex life.
- Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT): New research suggests that testosterone plays a major role in the female sex drive. A new testosterone patch has been shown to improve sex drive in women by up to 75%. This patch is not yet approved, but similar testosterone therapy is available. Side effects can include increased cancer risk, rapid hair growth, and a deepened voice.