As you know, sex, desire, and sexual satisfaction vary from one woman to the next. Your sex drive may have been higher than your girlfriends, or your sexual satisfaction may have been easy to please. Whatever the case, menopause can often change everything you thought you knew about sex.

A 2015 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that postmenopausal women, on average, experienced a greater rate of sexual dysfunction than their premenopausal peers. This is because menopause can trigger a variety of sexual side effects.

Here are some of the issues you may have started to experience, or should be prepared to experience in the near future.

Reduced Desire

According to the North American Menopause Society, both men and women experience reduced desire with age. But women are two to three times more likely to feel that decrease in sexual urges. This is because a woman’s estrogen hormone levels are changing.

It’s important to remember that desire is also strongly linked to the mental and emotional aspects of your well-being. Either way, if you’re feeling less interested in sex now that menopause has hit, know that you’re not alone.

Vaginal Dryness

The change in estrogen levels can also be responsible for a decrease in your natural vaginal lubrication. This vaginal dryness is sometimes to blame for more painful, or at least more uncomfortable, sex. Many women find relief by using over-the-counter lubricants or vaginal moisturizers

Decreased Pleasure

For some women, vaginal dryness can combine with reduced blood flow to the clitoris and lower vagina. This can lead to reduced sensitivity to your erogenous zones. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to have fewer orgasms, or orgasms that are less intense and take more work to achieve. And if you’re experiencing less pleasure with sex, it makes sense that your desire would decrease as well.

Painful Penetration

Another common side effect of menopause is dyspareunia, or painful intercourse. There can be a lot of issues contributing to this condition, including vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal tissues. For some women, this causes a general sense of discomfort during intercourse, while others experience severe pain as well as soreness and burning. And just as reduced pleasure can contribute to a lower sex drive, it also makes sense that experiencing more pain with intercourse could lead to a disinterest in sexual encounters.

Emotional Distractions

Our mental state of being, especially for women, can play a big role in sexual desire, arousal, and satisfaction. Unfortunately, menopause can sometimes contribute to a more distressed mental state. You may be feeling exhausted as a result of your hormone shifts and night sweats. Or you may just be more stressed and emotional than normal. All of these feelings could potentially translate into the bedroom, meaning your sexual side effects may be physical as well as mental.

Treatment Options

Even with these side effects, remember that menopause doesn’t have to end your sex life. That same study from The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that there are improvements to be made in sexual satisfaction long past menopause.

You may want to start by trying a few at-home solutions, such as:

  • trying over-the-counter lubricants or vaginal moisturizers
  • experimenting with varying positions
  • attempting self-stimulation as a way of increasing desire

You should also talk to your doctor or gynecologist about any issues or challenges you may be experiencing. Remember that there are medical treatments available to help you achieve a healthy sex life.