As you approach menopause, you might begin to worry your sex life is about to change — and not for the better.
Menopause occurs when you haven’t had a period for 1 year. The transitional years before that, often marked by symptoms, like sleep issues, hot flashes, infrequent or irregular periods, are known as perimenopause.
These completely normal changes can still feel frustrating, in part because they affect the way sex feels and also your level of sexual desire — declining sex drive is a common symptom of perimenopause.
That said, if you’ve heard or read that you won’t be able to orgasm after menopause, you should know that’s completely false. Orgasms — and great sex — are still absolutely possible, through menopause and beyond.
A few small changes can go a long way toward increasing your pleasure during sex — solo or partnered — and boosting physical and emotional intimacy with your partner(s).
You really want to orgasm, but, for whatever reason, you just can’t seem to get there. This can feel so discouraging that, eventually, you might decide there’s no point in trying and give up entirely.
While you can try a few different things to make an orgasm happen, it’s also important to keep in mind that you can still enjoy yourself, even without an O.
Focusing on the pleasure you’re experiencing in the moment without fixating on orgasm as a specific goal might just help you get there more quickly.
For more satisfying sex, solo or partnered, try these tips.
Grab some lube
It’s typical to experience vaginal dryness during and after the menopausal transition.
As the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body begin to drop, your vagina produces less lubrication, even during arousal. This decrease in natural lubrication can make penetrative sex feel uncomfortable, even downright painful for some.
A personal lubricant can smooth the way toward more enjoyable sex. Lube can also help ease friction when it comes to direct clitoral stimulation, which could help you achieve orgasm through touching alone.
- Overwhelmed by the options? Our shopping guide can help you find the right lube for you.
- Already in the middle of sexy time? This guide offers some household alternatives to lube — and a few to avoid.
Try some direct stimulation
During the menopausal transition, blood flow to the vagina and clitoris decreases. If you usually need clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm, well, the resulting decrease in sensitivity can make orgasm more difficult to achieve.
More difficult doesn’t mean impossible! It just may take a little longer or require a new approach.
Give these tips a try:
- Touching. Start by touching, rubbing, or stroking your clit — or asking your partner(s) to. Lube, like we mentioned above, can make a difference by reducing friction and increasing your pleasure. If you’re new to direct touching, our guide to clitoral stimulation offers plenty of ideas for you and your partner(s) to consider.
- Oral sex. Oral sex can be a great way to get things going. It stimulates your clit, for starters, but it also offers the added bonus of lubrication.
- Vibrators. Using a vibrator regularly, during solo or partnered sex, may help boost sensitivity and wetness and make it easier to reach orgasm.
Take time for kissing and touching
Changing hormones can also mean it takes longer to become aroused or feel in the mood for sex.
- taking turns giving each other sensual massages
- taking a candlelit bath together
- talking dirty (This can be as simple as talking through the things you’d like to try or reminiscing about past sexual experiences.)
These ideas work just as well when it comes to getting yourself in the mood for solo sex, too.
Keep the room cool
Getting hot and heavy can leave you sticky and sweaty. If you also have hot flashes to contend with, you might feel uncomfortably warm, which can quickly kill an intimate mood.
Adding a fan in your room, keeping water nearby, and staying hydrated throughout the day can help you stay cool as things heat up between you and your partner(s).
You can even grab some ice cubes to incorporate during sex. The cooling sensations along the body can enhance arousal for some people.
The idea that it’s impossible to orgasm once you hit menopause likely relates to the fact that many people do have more difficulty achieving climax once the menopausal transition begins.
It’s also common to have less interest in sex in general, so you might stop prioritizing sex or making time for it at all.
This myth might also have something to do with outdated and completely inaccurate ideas about sexuality. Menopause, of course, marks the end of childbearing years and the transition into middle age and older adulthood. To some, this change might suggest an end of sexual desirability.
Yet, contrary to what others may believe or suggest, sex and continued sexual pleasure in middle and older age is typical, healthy, and absolutely possible.
Any of the menopausal changes you experience can make orgasming more of a challenge. But changes in sex drive and sexual pleasure usually relate to a combination of factors.
Physical menopause symptoms
Changing hormones, along with physical changes to the vagina, can lead to symptoms that affect your sex life, including:
- vaginal tightness, dryness, and irritation
- urine leakage or incontinence
- decreased libido
- less clitoral sensitivity
- pain during sex
Interest in sex might also decline in response to changes taking place elsewhere in your body, including:
- difficulty sleeping
- muscle aches and pains
- frequent headaches
- hot flashes
- changes in body shape and size
Menopause can also involve emotional and mental health symptoms, like:
- increased irritability
- frequent mood changes
- feelings of anxiety or depression
- relationship or workplace stress
- worry and stress about life changes or illness
These symptoms can relate to physical changes (sexual and non-sexual) associated with menopause, or any number of outside factors.
Symptoms of menopause can show up in different ways, and not everyone will experience the same concerns. Here are a few possible strategies to help you address any of the changes you might experience.
Generally speaking, the best solution for dryness is more lube. A thicker lubricant can help increase sexual pleasure and reduce discomfort and soreness.
Just make sure to choose your lube carefully, since some lubricants can cause irritation or even allergic reactions. Avoid scented or flavored lubes to help reduce your chances of vaginal irritation.
Silicone-based lubricants usually last longer than other types, and they’re hypoallergenic.
You can also talk with your doctor about getting a prescription for estrogen cream. Applying this cream to the vaginal opening can help with natural lubrication if lube doesn’t yield the results you’re looking for.
Having sex regularly can help prevent uncomfortable vaginal tightness.
Regular sex doesn’t always have to take place with a partner, either. Solo sex is a great way to get more comfortable exploring what feels good to you. Using a smoother glass dildo can help you enjoy penetration without friction or irritation.
With a partner, don’t hesitate to get creative. Try different positions until you find one that feels comfortable.
- grinding instead of deep thrusting
- you on top
- penetration while spooning
Don’t forget, sex doesn’t have to involve penetration. Feel free to skip penetration entirely and try something else, like oral sex or mutual masturbation.
A little urine leakage can happen at any point in life, but this often becomes more common as you enter menopause. Sneezing, laughing, intense activity, or sudden movement can lead to involuntary peeing — something you could probably do without during sex.
Kegel exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor and reduce urinary leakage, but they can also lead to better orgasms. Win-win, right?
Keeping a towel or cloth nearby — and having a sense of humor — can also help. Sex involves all kinds of fluids, after all. What’s one more, in the grand scheme of things?
Loss of libido or decreased arousal
Changing hormone levels can affect your sexual interest, but other factors can play a part in libido, too.
- Taking any regular medications? It’s worth checking whether any of them can affect libido and asking a healthcare professional about trying a different medication.
- Lingering changes in your mood? Stress, depression, and anxiety can all affect desire, so it never hurts to talk with a therapist or other mental health professional if you’re experiencing mood changes.
- Having a hard time getting in the mood? Try reading or watching erotica — alone or with your partner — or sharing sexual fantasies with each other.
You may find there’s something of a bright side to this transition, too.
Increased confidence and self-awareness can help lower inhibitions, making it easier to communicate and connect with your partner.
What’s more, if you’ve raised children that have since left home, you’re in a position to enjoy more privacy and leisurely intimate encounters, instead of having to rush through things when family members are out of the house or asleep.
Solo sex isn’t just something to do when you don’t have a partner. It can be an enjoyable and empowering activity on its own.
If you’re not in the habit of masturbating regularly, set aside time for some physical self-exploration to get to know your body a little better. Focus on what feels good, and you might find it becomes easier to orgasm without frustration.
Communication is an essential part of good sex at any stage in life, but it becomes even more important now.
Talk openly with your partner(s) about the changes of menopause and how they’re affecting you to help reduce stress about how those changes might affect your relationship.
Open conversations make it possible to explore solutions together, such as:
- trying alternate positions or types of touch when your go-tos feel uncomfortable
- spending more time on erogenous play and outercourse
- planning and setting aside time for sex
You can also try sex toys with a partner. For a sexy way to find something new to try, why not browse online sex toy shops together?
Sexual health during menopause and beyond
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are possible at any stage in life. Having a conversation with new partners about sexual health history and using barrier methods every time you have sex can help lower your risk.
It’s always a good idea to get tested for STIs before having sex with a new partner.
The strategies above might not always yield the results you’re hoping for.
If sex no longer feels enjoyable, and you’re still unable to achieve orgasm, talk with a physician or OB-GYN.
A sex therapist or other mental health professional can also offer guidance with identifying other potential causes of decreased sexual enjoyment and exploring possible solutions.
Good sex generally doesn’t happen effortlessly, no matter what stage of life you’re in.
Sexual pleasure and satisfaction can change as you approach and pass menopause, yes. But creativity, communication, and a willingness to try new things can help you maintain a satisfying sex life for years to come.
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.