World Menopause Day 2022: Can menopause put an end to your sex life?

Several studies have revealed that menopause affects sexuality. Though it is pervasive, it varies from person to person. Some women may experience an increase in libido, while others may experience a decrease. Dr Ameya Kanakiya Kulkarni, Co-Founder and Gyneacologist at Elda Health explains.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Tuesday, October 18, 2022, 04:31 PM IST
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Menopause is a biological aging process wherein middle-aged women experience irregularities in menstruation and suffer from associated conditions. Generally, women between 40 and 50 years experience menopause; however, it may vary depending on age, race, ethnicity, genetics, and medical conditions. The symptoms of menopause start surfacing a few years prior and may extend for 3-4 years in the post-menopause phase or even last for a lifetime. The various indicative symptoms of menopause include hot flashes and night sweats, vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence, emotional distress, weight gain, and changes in libido.

Menopause and libido

Menopause conditions and sexual well-being are highly interconnected. In most cases, menopause exerts suppressive effects on libido. Generally, a lower libido during menopause is due to decreased hormone levels which can lead to vaginal dryness and atrophy, causing pain and discomfort during sex. Physical changes associated with menopause, like weight gain, hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and fatigue, might also affect the libido. Certain issues like obesity, orthopedic problems, urinary leakage, specific medications, etc., may lead to decreased sexual functions. However, most of these issues can be solved with symptom management, changes in medicines, and changes in sexual positions. Besides clinical conditions, socio-cultural factors, beliefs, and lack of privacy exaggerate the sexual aversion in middle-aged women. On the contrary, some women might experience an increase in libido towards menopause as the androgens (male hormones) are at a higher level after menopause.

Suggestive measures to improve libido during and after menopause

If you're noticing changes in your libido during menopause, consult your doctor to help determine the underlying cause of those changes. They may suggest treatments, including:

Home remedies

over-the-counter (OTC) medications

Prescription medications

The different ways to treat libido changes due to menopause include:

Lubricant - A lubricant can help ease vaginal dryness and make sex more comfortable. 

Exercise - Exercise releases endorphins, a stress relieving and positive emotions-triggering hormone. In addition, it will help fight weight gain and boost your mood. It is advised to begin gradually and aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes/per day. 

Communicate with your partner - Feeling more connected to your partner via communication might also help you get in the mood for sex. 

Focus on intimacy - Not only sex but kissing, caressing, and other nonsexual acts of intimacy can help enhance sex drive by creating a bond with your partner.

Kegel exercises - It helps tighten pelvic muscles and enhance sensations during sex.

Therapy - Therapy, alone or with your partner, can help you manage some of the mood symptoms of menopause and understand how to manage a decreased libido.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) - Estrogen pills can help reduce vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy by replenishing the hormones. In cases of only vaginal symptoms, an estrogen cream or vaginal ring might be a better choice.

Sexual well-being significantly affects your physical and emotional health and works to combat various menopause-related symptoms and conditions. 

Stress reliever: Menopause may come with mood swings, and sex is a natural stress reliever, soothing anxiety. Caressing and hugging release feel-good hormones, encouraging feelings of relaxation and contentment.

Maintains blood flow: Reduced blood flow to the vagina increases the chance of experiencing vaginal atrophy. Being sexually active during perimenopause and after menopause helps maintain the blood flow to keep vaginal tissue healthy.

Beats incontinence: Nearly 30% of women may experience incontinence, particularly after childbirth and post-menopausal stages. Kegel exercises and Regular sex are the proven ways to beat incontinence. 

A physical activity: Not a replacement for actual exercise, but sex can be a good exercise as it elevates heart rate and burns about five calories/minute.

Sound sleep: Menopausal women often report sleep struggles. Sex boosts oxytocin and lowers cortisol, and orgasms release prolactin, which helps sleep more profound and restful.

Although menopause does not end sex life, certain premenopausal factors might cause a loss of libido. These symptoms can be well treated with the help of your doctor, and you can continue enjoying your sexual life and intimacy with your partner as before.

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