In general, sex drive decreases gradually with age in both men and women, but women are two to three times more likely to be affected by a decline in sex drive as they age. Reduced sex drive becomes much more common in women starting in their late 40’s and 50’s. One primary reason being, decrease in testosterone and estrogen levels both, which may make it more difficult for you to get aroused.
A decrease in estrogen can also lead to vaginal dryness. Lower levels of estrogen lead to a drop in blood supply in the vagina, which can then negatively affect vaginal lubrication. It can also lead to thinning of the vaginal wall, known as vaginal atrophy. Vaginal dryness and atrophy often lead to discomfort during sex. Vaginal atrophy in particular can cause significant problems when it comes to sex drive and intimacy. A large North American study published in the journal Menopause in February 2014 found that painful sex related to vaginal atrophy negatively affected both men and women and was noted as the primary reason for decreased sex drive and avoiding sex.
Other physical changes during menopause might also affect your libido. For example, many women gain weight during menopause, and discomfort with your new body can decrease your desire for sex. Hot flashes and night sweats are also common symptoms. These symptoms can leave you feeling too tired for sex. Other symptoms include mood symptoms, such as depression and irritability, which can turn you off from sex.
There are certain issues if attended can help you better manage the situation:
- Try over-the-counter water- or silicone-based lubricants to reduce friction. Also, ask the doctor about vaginal moisturizers or low-dose vaginal estrogen in a cream, suppository, or ring.
- Hormone therapy (HT) doesn’t seem to kindle desire for most women. But it can ease hot flashes, night sweats, and other symptoms that leave you feeling not-so-sexy. Regular sex can help promote blood flow and reduce dryness, too.
- Counseling is especially important if you’ve stopped having sex. Work on improving communication with your partner and talk openly about the emotions you are experiencing, including fear, resentment, and avoiding sex, to help improve
- Focus on sexual intimacy: If you enjoy being close to your partner in other ways besides having sex, that may actually boost your sex drive. It doesn’t have to be intercourse, but it can be sensual play and primal intimacy like kissing and caressing. Libido is constantly changing for a woman — not only during menopause.
- Exercise can also improve your mood. That’s because exercise releases endorphins, which can reduce stress and trigger positive emotions. Start slow and work toward exercising for at least 30 minutes a day. Try an activity that you’ve always been interested in but haven’t tried before. The point is to do something that you enjoy so that exercise doesn’t feel like work. Kegel exercises can help tighten your pelvic muscles and enhance sensations during sex. To perform this exercise, you’ll first need to locate the correct muscles. The easiest way to do this is to stop peeing midstream. The muscles you activate are your pelvic floor muscles.
- Cut down on caffeine and alcohol & eat healthy to reduce menopausal symptoms, such as insomnia and hot flushes, and balance mood. Certain foods – chickpeas, linseed and soy for instance – contain phytoestrogens, which are compounds similar to the oestrogen we produce, but you’d have to eat a shedload to make a difference. Eating less sugary or processed foods will make you feel better in general, as will eating lots of fruit and vegetables.
- Deep, slow breathing practiced regularly can also help stop a hot flush, night sweat, anxiety attack or menopausal rage.
Menopause can be a time to think, “I’ve got another third of my life to go – I want to make the most of it.”