A recent study involving nearly 1,400 women confirms that women experience a troublesome decline in sexual function after menopause. The study was conducted at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and published in the online issue of Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society. In the study, researchers collected information from 1,390 volunteers starting as far back as the year 1996. The women were between the ages of 42 and 52 when the study first began. The participants responded to questionnaires about sexual function periodically throughout the study.
Decline in Sexual Function Can Take a Long Time
Upon analysis of the data, researchers determined that menopause-related decline in sexual function starts about 20 months before the last menstrual period, and the decline continues for five years following the final period. However, the post-menopause decline is more gradual than the pre-menopause decline. The researchers also determined that although other age-related factors such as cultural and emotional factors affected sexual function after menopause. However, it was the physical aspects of menopause itself that had the greatest effect.
Interestingly, the study found that women of Japanese descent experienced the greatest decline in sexual desire and libido, while African-American women were the least affected. Caucasian women were somewhere in the middle. It’s not known whether this is due to biological differences or to social and cultural influences.
Sexual Function After Menopause: Why Does It Wane?
There are multiple aspects of sexual desire including biological sex drive, emotional and interpersonal motivation to have sex and beliefs and expectations about sex. Each of these aspects can be affected by the changes that come about during mid-life, and thus can impact a woman’s overall desire to have sex. These mid-life changes seem to affect women more severely than men, with women being two- to three-times more likely to experience a decline in sex drive as they get older.
The most well-known reason many women experience a drop in sexual function after menopause is because estrogen levels drop dramatically when menstruation stops. In addition to a lower sex drive, menstruation often causes hot flashes and vaginal dryness. In particular, vaginal dryness can cause women to shy away from sex. Not only do estrogen levels drop, but so do female testosterone levels, which can further extinguish sexual desire.
Beliefs and expectations about sex might cause a woman to shy away from sex as she gets older. She may falsely believe that having lots of sex is only for young people and that it’s inappropriate for her to be very sexually active. An example of emotional and interpersonal motivation that can affect desire is that by middle age, many women’s romantic relationships have gone a bit stale. Even many of the happiest marriages experience a decline in the frequency of sex simply due to being very comfortable with your partner and settling into a routine.
Healing Sexual Dysfunction and Loss of Libido
More than 75 percent of the women in the study reported that sex was moderately to extremely important to them. Although many women find the lack of sexual desire in mid-life to be worrisome, there are many things you can do to remove any problems that might be interfering with your sexual desire and to optimize your sex drive. First and foremost, live a healthy lifestyle. Things such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and avoiding alcohol and tobacco are important for your overall health, which you must take care of in order to improve sexual function. Stress and fatigue contribute to a lack of sexual desire, so it’s important to deal with stress in a healthy way.
Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression greatly interfere with your desire for sex. If you experience these or any other mental health conditions, talk to your doctor about treatment options. However, note that most antidepressant medications have the side-effect of reducing sex drive. If you have mild-to-moderate depression, you may see great results without the side-effect of reduced desire by using natural treatments like exercise and supplements such as 5-HTP, fish oil, vitamin D, B-complex vitamins and turmeric extract.
Physical health conditions also have an effect. Conditions like hypothyroidism, obesity, diabetes and heart disease can put a dent in your sexual desire. If you suffer from one of these conditions, manage them to the best of your ability. Don’t forget that many medications can reduce libido. These include birth control pills, high blood pressure medications, seizure medications, medications for psychosis and more. If you think your prescription medication is reducing your sex drive, talk to your doctor about changing your medication.
In addition to the above steps, you may want to try a natural libido-boosting supplement. Some of the best are those that contain maca root, which has many benefits. Taking maca root can reduce some of the negative symptoms of menopause while boosting your libido. It also helps with anxiety and supports a good well-being.