While menopause has come out of the closet, the loss of sex drive experienced by menopausal and post-menopausal hasn’t. We still tend to gloss over such loss or to bury it under articles that scream “How to Have the BEST SEX EVER After Age 50!” But “best” sex, or even “good” sex, let alone sex itself, can’t occur until we look squarely in the eye of the realities at this stage of life.
By pretty much all accounts, menopause is not a fun time for women. Hot flashes, night sweats, changes in mood, the overwhelming feeling that you are at the mercy of your hormones (or lack thereof!)—these are only some of the symptoms of what could be considered a woman’s “second puberty,” the bane of just about every woman’s existence after the age of 50. But perhaps the most difficult aspect of menopause—as well as the one that is most difficult to openly discuss—is how it affects your sex drive.
It’s common knowledge that menopausal women experience changes in their libido, usually manifesting as a marked decrease in sexual arousal that generally sets in during their late 40s and 50s. What many don’t understand are the underlying physiological forces that affect the body’s inclination toward sexual stimulation, as well as the emotional factors that play a key role.
According to WebMD lack of libido has a lot to do with decreases in your body’s production of estrogen, which is most abundant in your body before and after ovulation. Estrogen is also responsible for adequate blood flow to the vagina. Less estrogen means less blood flow, which means less moisture. Additionally, lower levels of estrogen can cause thinning of the vaginal walls, which, in combination with less moisture, can contribute to the common problem of irritation and even pain during sexual intercourse. So even when a woman is in the mood to have sex, intercourse might be too uncomfortable to bear.
Fortunately, there are simple solutions for vaginal discomfort during sex. For instance, you can buy personal lubricants over the counter and without embarrassment. Nowadays, lubricants are accepted as a normal part of modern sex and can be found in the bedside drawers of young and old alike. If you’re looking for a type of lube to start with, Adam and Eve suggests using a water-based lube, which isn’t sticky and is best at mimicking your body’s natural moisture. You can even try a water-based lube enhanced with natural pheromones, which can help increase libido too.
Of course, physical changes are not the sole culprit when it comes to a decreased sex drive. Changes in body image and other emotional factors play a huge role. Because these factors are often related to menopause in the first place, it’s a bit of a “chicken and the egg” situation.
Some women experience high levels of anxiety, their lack of sexual desire making them feel less like a “real” woman. For these women, the persistent and recurring lack of sexual desire is more than just a mere symptom of menopause and is deeply troubling. According to the North American Menopause Socety, many of these women likely suffer from the most common sexual complaint among women: “hypoactive sexual desire disorder,” which can become “a source of distress, undercutting their satisfaction with life and changing their sense of sexuality and self.”
This is why it’s so important for women to know that what they’re going through is normal, that they’re not deficient and that they’re just as beautiful and vibrant as ever! It helps to talk openly with your partner, as you will likely find that just discussing what you’re going through can lead to better intimacy.
Indeed, for many women the general desire for intimacy—wanting to be held, caressed and lovingly touched—often increases with age, which is all the more reason to talk with your partner about your wide range of intimacy needs, rather than simply focusing on intercourse. In an interview with Woman’s Day Magazine, Dr Dorree Lynn stressed the following: “Foreplay should start in the morning with wakeup kisses, gentle pats on the butt, hand holding and whispering sweet nothings during the day. It’s all part of heightening the desire, pushing the sex drive, both partners taking more time and care to considered a woman’s “second puberty,” the bane of just about every woman’s existence after the age of 50. But perhaps the most difficult aspect of menopause—as well as the one that is most difficult to openly discuss—is how it affects your sex drive, both partners taking more time and care to enjoy their sexual experience to the fullest.”