Menopause and Sex

Healthy Aging, Healthy Living, Sexual Health, Women's Health
on August 19, 2011
Think Stock

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a common symptom of menopause is “decreased interest in sex, possibly decreased response to sexual stimulation.” However, some women actually experience a heightened sexual drive during early menopause. Some of the change in drive depends on how your hormones change, as well as your body’s reaction to the varying hormone levels. Women often experience vaginal dryness, vaginal shortening and reduced elasticity in the vaginal walls, all of which may impede the enjoyment of sex. Luckily, some of these symptoms are relatively easy to manage.

Symptoms you may experience. Reduced blood flow and elasticity, as well as hormonal changes, may cause a decrease in sexual sensitivity. Dryness can increase the risk of injury during sex and may make intercourse painful. The risk of urinary tract infection, with or without sex, also increases due to the reduced volume of fluids. However, experts state that those who have satisfactory sex before menopause will most likely continue after perimenopause.

Managing menopause-related changes. Some sexual changes during menopause may only require lubricants that you may not have needed before, some stimulating oils or other products, or a more careful approach to prevent pain or injury. For pronounced dryness and other issues, your doctor may prescribe an estrogen-based vaginal cream. Some women opt for hormone therapy to help ease the severity of these and other common perimenopause symptoms.

Preventing or delaying unwanted sexual changes. One of the best ways to prevent decreased sexual desire and ability is to simply stay sexually active before, during and after menopause. Alternatively — or in addition — do daily Kegel exercises. The loss of muscle tone as you age is one of the primary causes of the changes that cause decreased sensation, increased infections and urinary issues. Just like any other muscle tissue, it needs regular exercise in order to maintain good tone and health. Also, make sure that you drink plenty of water and avoid smoking and large amounts of caffeine, which can aggravate menopause symptoms.