Menopause can turn your life upside down. You’ll go through many changes, and none of them may catch you by surprise more than changes in sexual desire and function. But menopause doesn’t have to signal the end of a vibrant sex life.
Sex after menopause is one of the least discussed aspects of the “Big M.” It’s time for that to change.
With that in mind, I queried the original members from my blog, Menopause Goddess, along with some of our readers, on the biggest myths about menopause and sex.
1. Menopause leads to loss of libido
It’s true that menopause causes libido to dip or even disappear for many women, but this isn’t the case for everyone. Some women notice little change. One woman from our original Menopause Goddess group actually had an increase in sexual desire.
The menopause experience is highly individual. While there may be similarities among us, menopause is different for every woman.
2. Vaginal health measures are only necessary if you’re having sex
Vaginal health isn’t only linked to sex. It’s also connected to your urinary system and pelvic health. Even if you’re not currently sexually active, taking care of your vagina is necessary.
Women who’ve gone or are going through menopause experience hormonal changes that affect the vagina. You may experience issues such as urinary leakage or urinary tract infections. Because of this, you should still receive gynecological care after menopause.
3. Your partner won’t understand
I get it. It’s hard enough for you to understand, so how can you expect your partner to comprehend changes in libido? Admittedly, it can be difficult when sexual desire suddenly wanes. It can feel like you’re being rejected, or that you’re no longer attracted to your mate.
Our Menopause Goddess group realized that, in order to help our partners understand, we had to be the ones to strike up a conversation about physical intimacy. Surprisingly, we found that letting our significant others know that other couples were going through similar hardships made it less personal and more understandable.
4. Painful sex is a permanent condition
Thankfully, this isn’t the case. There are many ways to remedy this, from simple lubricants to vaginal dilators to hormone therapy and other medications. There are even laser treatments that may renew the vaginal lining.
Know that it may take some time and trial-and-error to discover works for you. Be patient.
5. Libido disappears forever
Even for those women who suddenly lost all sexual desire, they were able to recover it with time and attention. You probably won’t regain the same sexual drive that you had in your 30s and 40s, but you can get some of it back.
One therapist’s advice to couples to kick-start lost desire: Show up in the bedroom once a week naked with a smile on your face.
6. HRT is always the answer
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is an answer for some women. A good rule of thumb is to always try the least invasive treatment with the least potential side effects first.
If store-bought lubricants don’t work, try vaginal exercisers and dilators to strengthen muscles and promote lubrication. If these treatments fail, talk to your doctor about trying out a prescription medication.
7. Intercourse = Sexual intimacy
Many of us within the Menopause Goddess community use alternate forms of sexual intimacy, from oral gratification to mutual stroking to cuddling and kissing. For those who experience pain upon penetration, these methods can maintain physical intimacy within your relationship.
The biggest myth of all? Menopause doesn’t mean your sex life has to end. Allow time for remedies to work. Start an open conversation with your partner. If you experience severe pain and discomfort, talk to your doctor. And most importantly, be gentle with yourself.
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.”