Think your sex life has to end when your periods do? Think again: This life transition can actually rejuvenate a woman’s sex life. Lower levels of hormones do trigger such physical changes as thinning tissues and vaginal dryness (and symptoms such as night sweats and anxiety may make sex the furthest thing from your mind), but many women find that this stage of their lives opens a whole new world of enjoyment to them.
In fact, the single most important aspect of maintaining an active sex life may be your outlook: A major research study conducted at the New England Research Institute and the University of Massachusetts Medical School suggests that a woman’s loss of sexual desire during midlife may be more driven by negative attitudes towards sexuality, overall health and marital status than by a decrease in estrogen production during menopause.
Sex drive idiminished by menopausal symptoms? Intimacy does not necessarily always have to involve intercourse! Try enhancing intimacy with your partner by taking romantic walks, having candlelit dinners and giving one another sensual massages.
The study revealed that the only women who experienced diminished sexual desire were the ones with the preconception that aging meant loss of libido. Women who embrace a positive mind-set may find that menopause signals the beginning of a sex life that is more satisfying and active than ever before.
If you’re ready to enjoy a great sex life, then follow a few simple tips to have the time of your life:
Get a lube job. As your estrogen levels decrease during menopause, the vaginal tissue thins and becomes less elastic. These changes may cause vaginal dryness and irritation that make intercourse difficult. Over-the-counter water-based personal lubricants, such as K-Y jelly or Astroglide, can help things slide into place. If these aren’t sufficient, then estrogen cream, applied vaginally, may help resolve the problem. Be aware that oral doses of estrogen often fail to relieve symptoms of vaginal thinning.
Try a rubdown. Physically stimulating activities — like a sensual massage — can increase intimacy between you and your partner and decrease anxiety you may be feeling about your body’s changes. Indulge in a scented massage oil (lavender is particularly relaxing), light some candles, set your iPod to a romantic playlist and take the time to rediscover each other without feeling the pressure to engage in intercourse (although that may come naturally!).
Change things up. Try new positions to increase your comfort. Your body has changed, and your partner’s may have as well. Experimenting with new lovemaking styles — within your comfort zone, of course — not only allows you to find new things that work but can revive the excitement you felt earlier in your relationship.
Get moving. Regular physical exercise doesn’t just make you feel better about your body — it actually makes you enjoy sex more. Improved circulation gets the blood moving everywhere, including to those nether regions, which improves arousal. Plus, you’ll be more flexible, which will increase your ability to partake in and enjoy sex.
Look at the rest of your life. It’s easy to blame the change for sexual difficulties. But for many women in midlife, the root of the problem lies in other causes, such as stress caused by caring for aging parents, marital difficulties or financial woes (especially during these difficult economic times) or grief over the emptiness of the nest. Allow yourself the opportunity to explore these other issues and to try to resolve them. Consider seeing a therapist for assistance with especially troublesome problems. Once your overall happiness and well-being are restored, you may be surprised at how spicy your sex life becomes.
—by Anne Gallagher