Before menopause, I had a strong sex drive. I expected it to wane a little as the years went on, but was completely unprepared for it to stop abruptly. I was gobsmacked.
As a nurse, I believed that I had a bit of inside knowledge on women’s health. My 1,200-page nursing school textbook on maternal child health contained a single sentence about menopause. It stated that it was the cessation of menstruation. Period. My son-in-law, a nursing student, had a textbook with a whopping two sentences about menopause, so clearly we haven’t progressed very far.
Given the little information I’d gleaned from older women, I expected a few hot flashes. I imagined a warm breeze lasting about a moment or two. After all, “flashes” meant they must be short, right? Wrong.
I now believe hot flashes refer to bursts of temperature akin to lightning or the flashpoint of a forest fire.
Even before my libido took an extended vacation, hot flashes curtailed my sex life. My husband would touch me anywhere and my body temperature felt like it’d rise from 98.6 to 3,000 degrees. Spontaneous combustion didn’t seem out of the question. The subsequent sweating episodes further halted any physical intimacy.
Finally, I was able to get my flashes under control with fans, ice, cooling blankets, and soy isoflavones. Sexuality began to be a part of our life again. Little did I know that things were about to get much worse.
One fine morning, my libido just up and left. I felt desire on a Saturday, and on Sunday, it was gone. It wasn’t that I had any objection to intimacy. It’s just that I didn’t think about it anymore at all.
My husband and I were both baffled. Luckily, I had my Menopause Goddess group to talk to. We were all going through variations of the same dilemma. Thanks to our open discussions, I knew that I was normal. We shared ideas and remedies on how to rekindle our love lives.
For the first time in my life, sex was painful. Menopause can cause vaginal dryness and thinning of the delicate vaginal tissue. Both were happening to me.
To combat this, I tried several over-the-counter lubricants before I found one that worked. Primrose oil helped me with overall moisture. I tested a few vaginal wand dilators, which helped stimulate my own moisture and promote vaginal and urinary muscular health. Lastly, I found that it was best to wash my “lady parts” with a cleanser especially for that purpose, and to avoid harsh soap chemicals.
Different things will work for every woman. Experimenting is key to finding what works best for you.
The remedies above helped with the physical aspects of regaining intimacy. The only matter left to address was reigniting my desire.
The most important part of regaining my sexual vibrancy involved frank discussions with my husband about what was occurring, how it was normal, and that we’d work through it together.
I tried some herbal libido enhancing formulas, but they didn’t work for me. We tried a friend’s prescription of showing up naked once a week with a smile. Extended foreplay and “date nights” helped establish an appropriate mood and setting.
We wouldn’t set expectations, but often our closeness led to sexual intimacy. Gradually, my libido returned (although at a much lower burn). I still need to give time and attention to my sex life lest I “forget” how important it is to me and my spouse.
I’m now 10-years post menopause. My husband and I still make “dates,” but often we opt for sexual intimacy that doesn’t involve penetration, such as oral sex or mutual masturbation. We also hug and kiss throughout the day, so intimacy is a constant interaction. In that way, I feel like my sex life is more vibrant than ever. As my husband says, “It’s like we make love all day long.”
Menopause doesn’t have to mean the end of intimacy or a healthy sex life. In fact, it can be a new beginning.
Lynette Sheppard, RN, is an artist and writer who hosts the popular Menopause Goddess blog. Within the blog, women share humor, health, and heart about menopause and menopause remedies. Lynette is also the author of the book “Becoming a Menopause Goddess.”