Medically reviewed by Catherine Hansen, MD, OBGYN & Menopause specialist
Sex isn’t always top of mind when thinking about menopause, but hormonal changes are part of significant physical, mental, and emotional changes that happen at this time, and these can impact sex and intimacy in many ways.
First, let’s level set. When we talk about menopause, we mean the point in time when a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 consecutive months. That’s the technical definition. For this article, when we say menopause, we are also talking about perimenopause, the years before menopause when hormones fluctuate, and postmenopause, the time after menopause.
While menopause is often associated with symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings, menopause can have a significant impact on relationships and sexual well-being. In this blog post, we will explore strategies and tips to both manage the physical symptoms of menopause and also maintain healthy and fulfilling sex and intimacy during and after this transition.
Understanding the Impact of Menopause on Sexual Experiences
As your body changes and hormonal declines hit, it’s normal to experience shifts in your needs and desires. These can be confusing or surprising—you could be less interested in sex than you once were. Or, some women become more interested. Activities that used to bring pleasure might now be uncomfortable, painful, or uninteresting. It can be harder to become aroused or reach orgasm.
Many symptoms of menopause can also have an effect on sexuality. These are things like sleep disturbances, night sweats, mood changes, vaginal and vulvar dryness, or genitourinary syndrome. Menopausal changes can also include increased risk of UTIs after sex. Some people also find that broader changes in the body, like smelling different, weight gain, or weight redistribution, can affect how they feel about themselves sexually. It makes sense—it’s hard to feel sexy when you’re exhausted or if you’re worried you will be uncomfortable.
Menopause and Relationships
If you’re in a relationship, you may need to open new conversations about physical pleasure and about how your body’s changes are impacting you. Open and honest communication is the foundation of any successful relationship. During menopause, it is important to express your feelings, concerns, and desires to your partner. Sharing your experiences and seeking emotional support can help alleviate any anxieties or uncertainties. Additionally, actively listening to your partner’s perspective and being empathetic towards their needs can foster a stronger bond and promote a sense of unity during this phase.
It’s not selfish to ask for your own needs to be met and to practice self-care and self-pleasure. Together, you might find it’s time to try something new.
Educating and Involving Your Partner
For women who enter this stage with a partner, educating that person about menopause and its potential impact on your sex drive and overall well-being can lead to better understanding, deeper intimacy, and mutual empathy. Involve your partner in discussions about menopause-related changes, and encourage them to participate in researching and learning together. This shared knowledge can strengthen your bond and help both partners navigate this phase more effectively. By involving your partner, you create a space for open dialogue and mutual support.
Some people are exploring new relationships at this time, or dating, or may have multiple partners, so there’s the combination of rediscovering your own body alongside exploring intimacy with someone new. Certainly, physical changes add another dimension to this exploration, but also an opportunity to learn new things about your likes and dislikes, wants, and needs.
Self-Care and Emotional Well-being
Prioritizing self-care is essential during menopause. Engaging in activities that promote emotional well-being, such as regular exercise, stress management techniques, and self-reflection, can positively impact your overall mood and sexual drive. Taking care of yourself will not only benefit your relationship but also enhance your self-confidence and self-esteem. Remember to be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion as you navigate the physical and emotional changes that come with menopause.
Exploring New Kinds of Intimacy and Sexual Well-being
Menopause can bring about changes in sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and comfort. This is because as you get older, the flow of blood to your genitals during arousal decreases, resulting in reduced sensitivity. This may mean, for example, it takes a longer time to reach orgasm.
If this happens, it might be time to try something new. Keep an open mind and a willingness to be creative and explore new possibilities. Experimenting with new ways of intimacy, such as sensual massages, or trying different positions, can help you rediscover what feels good and pleasurable.
For example, some people find vibrators become necessary for them to reach orgasm. You can also try incorporating lubricants or moisturizers specifically designed for menopausal women that can enhance comfort and enjoyment during sexual activity. If you have a partner, remember that communicating about your desires and needs is vital to ensure a mutually satisfying and pleasurable experience.
A Doctor or a Counselor May Be Needed
If you find that menopause is significantly impacting your sexual well-being or relationship, seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in menopause-related issues can be beneficial. They can provide guidance, support, and personalized strategies to address your concerns and improve your intimate life. Professional help can offer a safe space to explore any emotional or psychological challenges that may arise during this phase.
If you’re physically uncomfortable during sex, having pain or dryness, you might want to consult with a Menopause Society-Certified doctor, who can help you address physical symptoms that may be getting in the way of your enjoyment.
At Pandia Health, our doctors are certified menopause experts who can help assess which menopause treatment will work best for you based on your symptoms. They can prescribe medication that will be free delivered to your home at affordable prices. Menopause treatment medications can address common sexual concerns like pain and discomfort during sex, as well as vaginal itchiness and dryness. You should not be in pain during sexual activity, and a professional can get you the medication and tools to address this problem.
The physical and mental changes that come with menopause can have a major impact on your sexuality and sexual activity, but keeping an open mind, trying new things, and taking care of yourself can help you continue to enjoy a fulfilling sex life for many years to come.
If you find yourself facing challenges like pain and discomfort, there are medical solutions available to help make sex and intimacy enjoyable again during and after menopause. Get a personalized menopause treatment today to address those menopause symptoms that may be limiting your sex life!
Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or changing birth control.