Sexual health in menopause can plummet, with low libido being one of the most common complaints. Luckily, there are a variety of solutions to get the symptoms under control.
Menopause and Its Side Effects
Menopause is defined as the period of life after you have had your last period. Most women enter menopause somewhere around age 50. The disappearance of menstruation is accompanied by a dramatic drop in sex hormone levels—most notably estrogen but also progesterone and testosterone. These decreased hormone levels lead to a wide variety of side effects including but not limited to lack of energy, headache, hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and weight gain.
Over two million women in the United States alone reach menopause every year. Although some women experience few and mild symptoms and are free to enjoy their liberation from worrying about pregnancy, each woman has a unique experience during menopause and many suffer troublesome sexual side effects.
Mid-Life Low Libido
One of the most common concerns about sexual health in menopause is the lack of sex drive that many women experience. After all, sex hormones are required to have a sex drive. However, a lack of testosterone and estrogen is not the only cause of low libido during menopause. For example, not having menstrual periods means not ovulating, which negates the possibility of the boost in sex drive during ovulation that most women experience.
Low sex drive can manifest in a number of ways. You may have fewer sexual thoughts throughout the day. Physical touch may not be as arousing and thus it may take you longer to become aroused. You might have a hard time having an orgasm and when you do it can be much weaker than normal. One survey found that up to 45 percent of women experience a loss of sex drive to one degree or another after they’ve reached menopause.
Other Aspects of Sexual Health in Menopause
The lack of estrogen circulating in your body also leads to what is known as vaginal atrophy. This means that your vagina can become drier, thinner and less flexible, making sex uncomfortable or painful. If sex is usually uncomfortable for you during this stage of your life, naturally that will make you want it even less.
Non-sexual effects of menopause can also indirectly impact your sex drive. For example, night sweats, insomnia and fatigue can all mean that you’re too tired to enjoy sex. Unpredictable mood swings can also put you out of the mood emotionally.
Sexuality is a complicated thing. It’s more complicated for women and even more so during the rapid hormonal changes of menopause. If your sexual satisfaction goes down during this period, so can your overall happiness with your life. However, you don’t have to put up with this and you can instead take steps to maintain your sex life into the golden years.
Maintaining Good Sexual Health
Even though menopause has the potential to cause a great deal of distress due to its sexual health symptoms, the fact is that 80 percent of women don’t experience any decrease in their quality of life during this period, according to the North American Menopause Society. Additionally, only about 10 percent of women experiencing menopause report that they feel fatigued, irritable or despairing during menopause. So, it’s likely that your symptoms won’t be terribly bad. However, there are things you can do to help prevent the negative sexual effects of menopause, as well as treat them if they have already appeared. Although menopause is a natural, unavoidable part of a woman’s life, you don’t have to put up with the side effects.
The usual recommendations for women experiencing negative effects on their sexual health in menopause include hormone replacement therapy and using personal lubricants. Although the use of personal lubricants during sex is indispensable if you experience vaginal dryness or pain, prescription hormone therapies may not be ideal for every woman as they can cause side effects. Many women find success with natural supplements for menopause, either in place of or in addition to prescription treatments.
Arguably the best botanical supplement for sexual health in menopause is maca root, which is becoming more and more popular among menopausal women. This herb has been shown to reduce menopause symptoms and boost libido. It has other benefits as well, such as reducing anxiety and depression and boosting your overall sense of well-being. If you take maca root along with other beneficial herbs in a supplement formula such as Macabido® female, all the better.
Adopt healthy lifestyle measures including regular exercise, a good diet and plenty of sleep. Being as healthy as possible will complement the effects of any botanical supplements you take for your menopause symptoms.
There is still a chance that even if you do all you can, your sex life will be a little less robust than it was when you were younger. It’s healthy to adjust your expectations about sex during the second half of your life and to communicate with your partner about these expectations. You and your partner should recognize that sex might not happen as frequently and that you’ll need to have sex differently (e.g. more foreplay or positions that are more comfortable for your aging body). If you can accept these changes and make a healthy psychological adjustment, it won’t have to affect your happiness or quality of life.