How does menopause affect sex drive?

The loss of oestrogen and testosterone following menopause can lead to changes in a woman’s body and sexual drive. Menopausal and postmenopausal women may notice that they are not as easily aroused, and they may be less sensitive to touching and stroking. That can lead to less interest in sex.

Also, lower levels of oestrogen can cause a drop in blood supply to the vagina. That can affect vaginal lubrication, causing the vagina to be too dry for comfortable sex. This situations can be corrected.

However, other factors may influence a woman’s level of interest in sex during menopause and after. These include bladder control problems, sleep disturbances, depression or anxiety, stress, medications  and health concerns

Some postmenopausal women say they have improved sex drive. That may be due to less anxiety linked to a fear of pregnancy. Also, many postmenopausal women often have fewer child-rearing responsibilities, allowing them to relax and enjoy intimacy with their partners.

During and after menopause, vaginal dryness can be treated with water-soluble lubricants Do not use non-water-soluble lubricants because they can weaken latex, the material used to make condoms. You or your partner should keep using condoms until your doctor confirms you are no longer ovulating  and to prevent getting Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD). Non-water-soluble lubricants can also provide a medium for bacterial growth, particularly in a person whose immune system has been weakened by chemotherapy.

Vaginal moisturisers can also be used on a more regular basis to maintain moisture in the vagina. You can also talk to your doctor about vaginal oestrogen therapy.

Although sexual problems can be hard to discuss, talk to your doctor. There are options to consider, such as counseling. Your doctor may refer you and your partner to a health professional who specialises in sexual dysfunction. The therapist may advise sexual counseling on an individual basis, with your partner, or in a support group. This type of counseling can be very successful, even when it’s done on a short-term basis.

If your sex drive has dropped during menopause  but you don’t think you need counseling, you should still take time for intimacy. You can still show your partner love and affection without having sex. Enjoy your time together: take walks, eat dinner by candlelight, or give each other back rubs.

To improve your physical intimacy, try these tips:

  • Consider experimenting with erotic videos or books, masturbation, and changes to sexual routines.
  • Use distraction techniques to boost relaxation and ease anxiety. These can include erotic or non-erotic fantasies, exercises with sex, and music, videos, or television.
  • Have fun with foreplay, such as sensual massage or oral sex. These activities can make you feel more comfortable and improve communication between you and your partner.
  • Minimise any pain you might have by using sexual positions that allow you to control the depth of penetration. You may also want to take a warm bath before sex to help you relax, and use vaginal lubricants to help ease pain caused by friction.
  • Tell your partner what’s comfortable and what’s not.