Overview

As you know, sex, desire, and sexual satisfaction vary from one woman to the next. Your sex drive may always have been higher than your girlfriends, or you may have found it easy to achieve sexual satisfaction.

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.

Read on to learn about some of the issues you may have started to experience—or should be prepared to experience in the future.

1. Reduced desire

According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), 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. Learn more about sex and aging.

2. Vaginal dryness

The change in estrogen levels can also be responsible for a decrease in your natural vaginal lubrication. Vaginal dryness is sometimes to blame for more painful, or at least more uncomfortable, sex.

Many women find relief by using over-the-counter (OTC) lubricants or vaginal moisturizers.

Shop for lubricants and vaginal moisturizers.

3. 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 of 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.

4. 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. 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.

5. Emotional distractions

Mental state of being for all of us can play a big role in sexual desire, arousal, and satisfaction. 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 transfer to 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.

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

  • using OTC lubricants or vaginal moisturizers
  • experimenting with varying positions
  • trying self-stimulation as a way of increasing desire

You may benefit from using a vaginal dilator. This tool helps to stretch vaginal tissue that has become thin and dry due to menopause or an extended period of abstinence.

Shop for vaginal dilators.

There are also prescription treatment options your doctor can recommend. Be sure to discuss these with your doctor, especially if home remedies don’t provide improvement.

The takeaway

Keep in mind that there are medical treatments and tools available to help you achieve a healthy sex life.

Talk to your doctor or gynecologist to learn more about your options. They can also give you advice about any other issues or challenges you may be experiencing.

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