Ah, menopause is the time in a woman’s life when she can finally look forward to satisfying sexual encounters without becoming pregnant, even without contraceptives. It should be a very happy and exciting period of a woman’s life, right?
Well, it’s not so clear-cut. Although menopause should be a period when a woman can freely have sex without getting pregnant, it is normal for some women to need time to adapt to the changes associated with this stage of life.
This article details what may cause sexual discomfort during and after menopause and how to deal with it, amongst other things. Enjoy.
Why Sex After Menopause be Uncomfortable
The main reason why some women experience discomfort during sex after menopause or during menopause is because of the well-documented hormonal changes associated with that time of a woman’s life.
Because estrogen levels drop during menopause, sexual activity can be quite uncomfortable. That is because estrogen is the hormone responsible for stimulating the flow of natural lubricants and aiding in the growth of new cells that contribute to replenishing the vaginal lining. When you go into menopause, your body gradually generates less and less estrogen.
Without estrogen, the lining of the vaginal cavity will become thinner, smaller, and drier. It also loses some of its elasticity. This condition may be referred to as “vulvovaginal atrophy” by your doctor.
When the tissue in your vagina becomes thinner, it can make penetration more uncomfortable or even painful. The term “pain during sex” refers to dyspareunia. The pain may have a piercing or searing quality to it. If the lining of the vagina has become too thin, it is also possible for it to rip or bleed during sexual activity.
Painful sex or simply the anticipation of pain during sex may make you anxious. Anxiety causes lubrication to decrease even further and may lead you to contract the muscles in your vaginal region when you have sexual activity. You may abstain from sexual activity altogether if it becomes intolerably unpleasant.
Sexual activity increases blood flow to the vagina, which contributes to the maintenance of healthy vaginal tissue. It is possible that the lining of your vagina will get even thinner and less elastic if you refrain from having sexual activity. After menopause, some women experience a reduction in the intensity of the discomfort. In certain women, the condition does not resolve independently and may require some care or treatment.
How to Deal with Painful Sex During And After Menopause
Many therapeutic options are available to return comfort and pleasure to sexual activity. Talk to your gynecologist about which choices would work best for you to make an informed decision.
1. Lubricants and Moisturizers
The first treatment you take to alleviate sexual discomfort may be one of these products. Lubricants can be found in liquid or gel form, and they are useful for relieving minor forms of dryness.
Lubricants are used to reduce friction, which in turn helps prevent pain. You put them in your vagina or the penis of your partner just before you engage in sexual activity.
You might consider using a water-based lubricant if you haven’t fully entered menopause yet or if you and your spouse use condoms. Condoms are susceptible to harm by oil-based lubricants, which can also reduce their efficacy.
Your physician might recommend a vaginal lubricant that is one of the following:
- Water-based: These are effective options when there is a significant need to reduce the amount of friction. However, you might need to reapply it while you’re making love.
- Silicone-based: Lubricants based on silicone have a longer shelf life than those derived from water. However, the cost is going to be significantly higher. You might wish to place a towel on the bed because silicone can leave stains on sheets. You should not use this kind of lubrication when working with silicone devices. It will cause the material to deteriorate.
Some lube contains ingredients that might cause irritation or burning if used improperly. Find one that has as few of such components as is humanly conceivable. You should probably avoid the following:
- Glycerin Parabens
- Propylene glycol
- Perfumes or flavors
Avoid using petroleum jelly as a lubricant in the vaginal area. It increases the likelihood of you getting infected. You should also avoid using certain oils, including mineral, olive, and baby oils. They can make your skin red and itchy or trigger an allergic reaction. And using any oil-based product can cause the condom to deteriorate. Because of this, they will be less effective against infections that are spread sexually.
You need to note that oils tend to linger for some time. This provides an environment for the growth of bacteria. This may increase the risk of infection for some individuals.
In place of lubricants, some women prefer moisturizers. That’s because, like skin moisturizers, they can go deeper into the skin, so their effects continue for longer. A moisturizer can continue to be effective for up to four days.
To maintain moisture throughout the day, you typically apply a hormone-free moisturizer once every two or three days. In addition to this, they assist repair the tissue in and around your vagina. They are available for purchase at the counter.
Remember that there is a possibility that the moisturizers will escape. It is recommended that you use them only at night and that you wear protective underwear. Your vulva could get drier if you use panty liners or pads, so avoid using those when you go to bed.
2. Try Pelvic Floor Therapy
You may experience weakness or tightness in the muscles that support your bladder and vagina. Both of these things can make sexual activity awkward.
The treatment of discomfort, weakness, and dysfunction in the pelvic floor muscles is the focus of pelvic floor physical therapy. When these muscles work properly, they open up blood vessels in the connective tissue and muscular tissue, which in turn helps enhance mobility.
The goal of physical therapy for the pelvic floor is to restore a higher level of mobility, healthy function, and movement in the affected area.
It is possible to retrain your pelvic floor through specific exercises. Kegel exercises are exactly what they sound like. However, you need to be aware of the correct ones to do to avoid making your already tight muscles even tighter. It would help if you spoke with a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor disorders to receive an accurate diagnosis and the appropriate treatment for your condition.
If your vagina is on the small side, your therapist might also recommend dilator therapy, which involves slowly stretching the muscles that surround your vagina. The dilators are medical tools that take the form of tubes and are available in various diameters.
3. Low-dose Vaginal Estrogen
If your symptoms of dryness and pain are more severe and do not improve with a moisturizer or lubricant, your gynecologist may recommend using low-dose topical estrogen.
The thickness and flexibility of vaginal tissues are improved by estrogen, and vaginal blood flow is also increased. Because the hormone is inserted directly into the vagina, it circumvents some systemic negative effects of oral estrogen supplementation. Cream, tablets, flexible rings, and inserts are the many delivery methods for estrogen.
There are various brand names for vaginal estrogen cream, including Premarin and Estrace. You should do this from twice to thrice per week to your vaginal area. The vaginal ring, often known as the Estring, is placed inside the vagina. It may remain there for as long as three months. You can use an applicator or just your finger to insert the vaginal tablet (Vagifem) into the vaginal canal twice weekly.
Some ladies find the ring or tablet easier to use than cream because there is less mess. Ninety-three percent or more of women who take low-dose vaginal estrogen report that it considerably reduces the amount of pain they experience during sexual activity.
4. Include Foreplay in your Sex
Foreplay is encouraged since we are confident that you do not intend to simply enter into the act and then roll over and sleep. You want it to be interesting to your partner while still having a personal experience, right? Consequently, you should talk to your partner about it and then engage in foreplay.
For the benefit of ladies, foreplay can work miracles. It has the potential to create the ideal atmosphere, increase the intensity of the experience, boost libido, and lead to more satisfying orgasms. Tell your man that he shouldn’t skip foreplay and head straight in; gentle, intimate foreplay gives your vagina time to secret lubricants before the final act.
5. Talk to your Partner
Even if it’s merely menopause’s accompanying physical changes that make sex difficult for you, having a conversation about it with your spouse can help ease the tension and anxiety associated with the subject matter. Your healthcare physician is a fantastic option to utilize if you do not have a significant other or feel the need to talk to someone other than them.
Gynecologists and sex therapists advise and encourage women to have a reputable, trusted gynecological healthcare practitioner to speak to. Advice from a licensed medical professional, such as a physician, nurse-midwife, or nurse practitioner, can be quite helpful.
Talking to a sex therapist may also be beneficial since they can assist you in being more forthcoming with your spouse regarding what you require and desire from them, as well as reassuring you that the changes you are going through are entirely normal.
If you are struggling with the changes that come with menopause, finding a form of assistance that you are at ease with is the most crucial thing you can do. This may require you to start with your primary care physician, a sex therapist, another counselor, or a therapist, or it may require you to seek out in-person or online support groups.
Why Menopausal Women have Low Sex Drive
It is possible that while you go through menopause, you will experience a shift in your libido, often known as your sexual drive. Some women may notice an increase in their libido, while others will notice a decrease.
Menopause is an experience that is unique to each woman, and during this time in their lives, many women find that their sexual life undergoes significant shifts. You may have heard that menopause can have an effect on a woman’s “libido,” which is another word for sexual desire.
Because they are less concerned with what other people think of them and experience a greater sense of freedom as they get older, some women find that they enjoy sex more. Others may realize that they do not experience sexual desire or do not desire to have sex, which can be very distressing.
During menopause, you may not want to engage in sexual activity for various reasons.
Some of these reasons may include the following:
Dryness and discomfort in the vaginal area can make penetrating sex uncomfortable or even painful.
Night sweats that prevent you from getting enough rest and sap your energy for sex
Decreased sexual desire due to lower hormone levels
Alterations in your emotional state may make you feel too stressed or upset to engage in sexual activity.
As with menopause’s other symptoms, you must seek advice whenever possible because there are ways a doctor can assist you. Some treatments can assist you in getting your sex life back on track, so do not be afraid to speak with someone in your area’s general practitioner’s office.
It’s important to note that painful sex or uncomfortable sex is different from low sex drive or reduced libido. The former is outright pain and discomfort and can be treated using the abovementioned methods. The latter is more of a psychological issue, and while physical therapy and meditation can help, they are not the mainstay of care.
15 Ways to Improve sex drive during menopause
A woman’s reproductive functions work in tandem with her hormones. There is a link between the hormones that control those functions and her overall health and well-being. This reality becomes abundantly clear as a woman progresses through the different phases of her life, beginning with puberty, continuing through her reproductive years, and ending with menopause.
A woman’s levels of reproductive hormones change throughout each stage, taking her on a veritable roller coaster ride through life. Each of these stages is governed by changing levels of reproductive hormones. And the transition through menopause not only brings an end to your reproductive phase but also has the potential to bring about unfavorable side effects that can wreak havoc on your sexual life, which may be the most noticeable stage in your life.
A lot is going on, and although it’s not uncommon for women to lose interest in sex and pleasure during menopause, many women discover that once they reboot their sex life, they enjoy it – and lots of it!
1. Value Yourself and Articulate your Desires
Due to the demands of society and culture, some women find themselves in the “pleaser” role, which means that they put their desires and requirements behind those of others. This can frequently translate into sexual interactions, leaving many women with the sensation that they cannot ask for what they truly desire in those situations.
If the way you feel pleasure has changed, you should spend some time getting to know your body and relearning what is pleasurable for you. You are not one-dimensional, nor is your partner. So, you need to set aside some time to investigate different aspects of yourselves, both mentally and physically.
The things that you desired when you were in your 20s may not be the same things that you want now. When you first became involved with each other, your romantic relationships were much more different from how they are now.
When you feel that the moment is appropriate to start thinking about new connections, looking at yourself in its entirety will help you realize what you want to give to another person and what you want to receive from them. When you are with another person, it is a wonderful gift to give them the ability to please you and know how to do so.
It has been observed in several couples that both partners deal with issues that accompany menopause. For instance, if a woman is hurting herself during sexual activity, her partner may avoid hurting her by having an erection or pre-ejaculation problems to avoid causing her pain.
If you are having trouble achieving orgasm through penetration on its own, you might want to try utilizing a clitoral vibrator in conjunction with it. Menopause is a wonderful opportunity to start fresh and feel enthusiastic about our sexual lives when this stage of our lives has passed. And by having those chats, you can start to move forward and find a solution to make sex joyful again; you can do this by finding a way to move forward.
Recognize that your needs and wants are important, and try to find a method to initiate a conversation about them with your partner. You may require the assistance of an expert for this.
2. Figure out how you best communicate affection.
Love is something that can be given and received in unique ways by each of us, and the only way to improve relationships is to learn more about one another. You can be the type of person who gets the warm fuzzies from being physically touched, or you might find that being helpful to others makes you feel the most loved.
You might believe you have a decent sense of what each other enjoys if you’ve been in a relationship for quite a while longer, which might be true, but there’s always more to discover about the other person. Most importantly, you are providing this opportunity to reevaluate what you already know about yourself and reconsider your current desires and requirements.
Intimacy is essential to our mental health, and sexuality is not a one-dimensional experience; sometimes, we don’t even desire penetrative sex, and that’s alright with us. You might enjoy reading up on the five love languages and testing your knowledge with the accompanying quiz.
3. Reignite your Sexual Life
You are reading this article because you want something to improve your sexual drive. But you might be unable to put your finger on what it is other than feeling something off.
If sex is part of that something that isn’t right, seeking relationship counseling or sex therapy can help you explore the idea that sex is more than just intercourse. The essential thing is to figure out what constitutes satisfying sexual activity for you and your partner if you have one. The chance to discover your requirements for a satisfying sexual experience, in whatever form that expression takes for you, is presented here.
You may have been in a relationship for a long time, but due to the demands of work-life balance, taking care of children or elderly parents, or other responsibilities, the passion in your relationship may have faded away.
If you are in a relationship and feel the fun and flirtation have died down, or if you are in a sex rut, it may be time to have a dialogue with your partner about how to reintroduce intimacy into the relationship.
Even with the person you’re closest to, having a conversation about sexuality can be unpleasant, so before that, you have the conversation with your partner; if you have one, think about what you’d like to talk about and take notes to help you feel more prepared. You might ask your spouse what they want from sex and intimacy, but you should also ensure that your wishes are listened to and handled.
When couples start a talk about sexuality, they can find new ways to connect and learn how to hold each other in new and interesting ways. When taken together, all of these factors have the potential to make a significant impact on how pleased both parties feel in their relationship.
If you and your partner retire to bed at the same time, which is earlier than you normally would, it will be much less difficult to initiate sexual activity. This is because the two of you won’t have to worry about feeling tired the following day. Try not to emphasize orgasm or penetrative sex as you begin to reintroduce touch and sex. Instead, put your attention on exploring each other’s bodies and focusing on touch. Take your time. You and your partner should move at a comfortable pace for both of you.
Outside the bedroom, you should spend more quality time with each other. If you haven’t been on a date when was the last time? Having children, having a job, taking care of elderly parents, and other responsibilities may easily get in the way of a romantic relationship, but making time for each other can help you reconnect and get that spark back in your relationship.
4. Seek Expert Aid
When it comes to menopause, many women have had the mindset that they ‘just had to get on with it.’ This mentality has persisted for far too long. Thankfully, attitudes are shifting, and an increasing number of women are beginning to comprehend the need to obtain assistance from various specialists.
If you have previously spoken with your primary care physician and believe that you require more assistance for your physical symptoms, scheduling a consultation with a menopausal specialist will provide you with a customized treatment plan to assist you in feeling more like your old self again and adjusting to the changes associated with menopause.
You may have some problems in your relationships or psychosexual concerns that you’d like to discuss with an expert (either on your own or with your partner) and that you believe going to a counselor or therapist could benefit you.
Even if a lot is going on during menopause, we may maintain an optimistic outlook because it’s possible for that change to be for the better.
5. You should try using sex toys.
What is a straightforward method to improve your sexual desire when you are going through menopause? Sex toys. Yes, we know that this isn’t exactly a topic you might be interested in, but the earlier you come to realize the fact that sex toys are your ally, the closer you are to overcoming the lower sexual desire associated with menopause. You can always look on the internet for a thorough guide to the best sex toys. This will help reduce the weirdness that might be associated with the topic.
So, how exactly can a sex toy help? As we’ve previously explained, a decreased blood flow can make your vulva less sensitive. Finding a good vibrator can help you get the level of stimulation you need, and the vibrations can also help increase blood flow.
What are the most recommended choices? Either a silicone clitoral stimulator or a clitoral suction vibrator. One of the benefits of clitoral suction vibrators is that they deliver powerful yet indirect stimulation. This makes them perfect for women who find it uncomfortable to have a direct touch with the clitoris.
6. Do not attempt to force an orgasm.
Once again, this is a fundamental but necessary stage in restoring your desire to have sexual encounters. As we have explained, as the body goes through menopause, vaginal function experiences a decrease in elasticity, and the lining thins out and dries out.
So, if you are eager to experience anything new, it is important to remember that you should start simple and progressively make things more challenging as you progress. We recommend starting with a dilator kit if you have never used sex toys before because it’s a great way to help build up your tolerance to things inside you.
Although they aren’t as sexy as a normal kit, they assist in relieving anxiety and can confirm that your body isn’t broken – it simply needs more care.
7. Include sexual activity as a form of self-care.
Yes, you read that correctly. What do we mean? We recommend that individuals make masturbation and sex part of their self-care routine. It can help improve your mood, reduce anxiety, and blood flow to your vulva — a definite win, win, win. It will not only help you figure out what feels good, but it will also help you get better acquainted with your body and improve your overall health.
8. Take your time
In other words, if you truly aren’t interested in it, you shouldn’t waste your time with it, but you should make sure that you give yourself more time to become aroused.
Arousal can be increased in various ways, including physical touch, reading erotic novels, listening to sexy audio stories, or watching feminist and ethical pornography. We recommend making use of the extra time to rediscover what it is that excites you.
9. Test out some sex furniture.
Sounds new and strange, right? Hear us out. We’ll be talking about things like cushions, wedges, and even stools in this conversation.
Sex furniture is furniture that helps you get in your favorite sexual positions. They provide some added support because, due to changes associated with menopause or general aging, you might find it difficult to get in certain positions. That, however, doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite sex positions.
You can select sex pillows, wedges, stools, or chairs for your arrangement. Take into account that all of these things have the potential to offer you the additional support that you need to feel comfortable. This will allow you to unwind and take pleasure at the moment rather than worrying about your position.
10. Ignore the judgment of others.
This is an important aspect of your sexual life. We want to emphasize that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to changes in sexual function resulting from menopause.
It is important to remember that menopause is not a health issue but a phase that every woman will pass through, and there are things you can do to improve your symptoms. So even though it can feel awkward or embarrassing to talk about the sexual impact of menopause, it is important to remember that it is a common health issue.
11. Your libido can improve with the help of hormone replacement therapy.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a great option for reducing symptoms in many women and may also boost their libido. Bio-identical hormones, which include estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone, can be a safe and effective way to treat perimenopause and the symptoms of menopause. Hormone therapy can also be an effective way to treat perimenopause.
Hormone replacement therapy for treating menopausal symptoms might not be suitable for all patients, particularly those with a history of breast cancer or epilepsy, among other conditions. However, for many people, hormone replacement therapy that is properly administered can significantly enhance the quality of life, in addition to assisting with bone density and lowering the chance of developing colon cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Consult with your health care provider to determine the most appropriate options.
Genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) symptoms like dryness or shrinking of the vagina may be two hallmarks of the condition, making sexual activity uncomfortable and reducing sexual desire. It is possible that taking certain hormone medications designed to alleviate the symptoms of GSM could help make sexual activity more comfortable. In addition, increasing your comfort level during sexual activity could boost your desire.
The following are examples of possible hormone therapies:
Estrogen: Pills, patches, sprays, and gels are just some of the many delivery methods for estrogen on the market. Vaginal creams, slow-releasing suppositories or rings, and rings all contain a trace amount of estrogen in varying concentrations. Your doctor can help you determine the risks and benefits associated with each form. However, estrogen will not improve sexual functioning associated with hypoactive sexual desire disorder.
Testosterone: Even though women have much lower levels of testosterone than men, the male hormone testosterone plays a key role in female sexual function. This is even though testosterone levels are much lower in women. Although the FDA has not authorized testosterone to treat sexual dysfunction in women, it is occasionally prescribed off-label to assist in reviving a flagging libido. There is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the use of testosterone in females. Taking it may result in changes in mood or personality, as well as acne and excessive body hair.
Prasterone (Intrarosa). This vaginal insert delivers the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) directly to the vagina, which can help ease any painful sensations associated with sexual activity. This medication is taken once per night to alleviate the symptoms of moderate to severe vaginal dryness associated with GSM.
Ospemifene (Osphena). This pill can help women who suffer from moderate to severe GSM alleviate painful sex symptoms when taken daily. This medication is not to be used in patients who have previously been diagnosed with breast cancer or who have an increased risk of developing the disease.
12. Increase your sexual activities
This might sound a little counterintuitive, but after you have reached the point where you can have comfortable sex, you should work on having more of it. This is because it improves blood circulation and brings more moisture to your vagina.
Don’t be hesitant to try different things in different positions. You could find that being dominant makes sex more enjoyable for you. This method allows you to choose the appropriate depth and pace for your diving experience.
13. Remember that your partner, too, might be affected.
Your libido, as well as the libido of your spouse, may suffer if you and your partner have been subjected to pressure or expectations regarding the quantity and frequency of your sexual activity together and the quality of your sexual life.
Therefore, you should stress connecting with and being intentional with your spouse rather than focusing on having sexual encounters.
Keeping the fire you have for one another burning through short, daily expressions of presence, attention, and acknowledgment can demonstrate that you care and value the relationship. Because excellent communication has the potential to build desire in a relationship, you should commit to offering your partner your undivided attention at all times.
14. Provide your body with the nourishment it needs to function properly.
Your energy levels, libido, and mood are all directly influenced by the food you put in your body. Stay away from foods that include excessive added sugar or saturated fats, and watch your portion sizes to prevent energy lows and that sluggish feeling that comes after eating. (Because nothing can dampen your spirits, like feeling bloated and gassy after a massive dinner.) Because excessive drinking can affect a woman’s sexual desire and capacity to have an orgasmic experience, you might want to think about reducing the amount of alcohol you consume.
It has been discovered that increasing the amount of zinc in one’s diet can increase sexual desire and orgasm in postmenopausal women. If you’re unsure what to add to your plate, try loading up on foods rich in zinc. Who’s up for some oysters?
When seeing patients, doctors are thought to see the patient as a whole instead of treating symptoms and diseases. Similarly, you always need to put your whole health first, which includes boosting the amount of physical activity you get, as this is one of the most effective ways to boost one’s libido.
Think of sex drive and function as part of the larger picture of holistic health. If you aren’t taking care of yourself mentally or physically, your sexual drive will diminish. A good night’s sleep and a sound mental state are also essential components of a strong sexual drive, in addition to the energy that comes from eating right and staying active regularly.
15. Get a good night’s sleep.
If you need any additional motivation to put your sleep first: There is a correlation between women who don’t get enough sleep and lower sexual desire and arousal levels. Even an additional hour a day might significantly impact a person’s desire to engage in sexual activity.
You can make improved sleep a reality in your life by establishing (or refining) a nighttime routine that will help your brain and body wind down in preparation for bed. This routine should begin with a set bedtime and include reasonably consistent wake-up calls.
Blackout curtains, sound machines, earplugs, and other tools can block light and noise once it’s time to hit the hay. Avoid using electronics like phones and tablets as much as possible in the evening to eliminate the effect that blue light might have on your brain, and try to avoid using electronics as much as possible during the day.
We have discussed quite a lot in this article. But one thing is clear; menopause can come with many changes. These changes can cause painful or uncomfortable sex or, in some women, reduced sexual drive. However, menopause does not have to be the end of your sexual activities; there are several things you can do to improve it.
Your sexual health affects your overall health and wellness, so it’s important to discuss your symptoms honestly with your doctor or partner to find a solution that works for you.