5 Common Sexual Health Issues in Midlife and Menopause
Updated: Feb 14
At this point you know that Menopause brings with it a lot of changes!
As women we may experience physical changes, mental changes, and emotional changes.
There are changes that happen to our hormones, our mood, weight, mindset, even our skin and eyes change!
But one of the changes we don’t take about enough is changes you may be experiencing that are affecting your sexual health and having a healthy sex life (with a partner or without!)
Let me start by saying that a healthy sex life is completely acceptable to want to have.
We are never too old to feel good, share our love for someone else, or enjoy a little personal self care!!
You're sexual health is just as important as your mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional health!!
A few changes you may notice related to your sexual health may include:
Uncomfortable or painful sex (aka vaginal atrophy) due to lower hormone levels making vaginal tissue drier and thinner.
Decrease in your Libido. Lower hormones may lower your sex drive or it may take you longer to get aroused.
Night sweats can disturb your sleep and make you tired and not in the mood.
Emotional changes can make you feel stressed or irritable.
[NOTE] Being less interested in sex as you get older is not a medical condition that requires treatment. If you are okay with less sex, that's 100% acceptable. This is for woman that want to improve the quality, frequency, duration of their sexual health. There is no one size fits all when it comes to defining a healthy appetite for sex!
>>> But if changes in your sexual health bother you, talk to your doctor or a health coach about ways to help, such as treatments to relieve vaginal dryness, working to balance your hormones, reducing stress, or increasing sleep.
Understand that working toward solving sexual health issues during menopause is not just about the desire to have sex. It's also about taking care of your body throughout your menopause journey.
Here are 5 common sexual health issues many midlife and menopausal women experience:
DECREASE IN LIBIDO: It's common to lose interest in sex from time to time, but when a low libido happens often, it can affect your relationship and even cause mild depression.
The sexual reproductive hormones of menopausal women deplete over time. When this happens, a woman's sexual drive is decreased. It also becomes harder to get aroused or maintain arousal, but it is important to remember that this is not your fault nor your partner's fault.
There are supplements, creams, and other options out there that can help - talk to your doctor for some recommendations.
It’s common for a low libido to be paired with Vaginal Dryness
VAGINAL DRYNESS: Vaginal dryness is a common symptom for women in perimenopause. Vaginal dryness happens when the estrogen starts to deplete, lessening the blood flow to the vagina, making it more difficult to produce natural lubricants. Obviously, the dryness can make sex feel very uncomfortable or even painful. When this happens, it’s important that if you have a partner you open up the conversation so he/she fully understands the situation. There are a ton of commercial lubricants that can help whether with a partner or not!
VAGINAL ATROPHY: Vaginal atrophy is an extreme case of vaginal dryness. The lining of the vaginal canal becomes dry, thin, and inflamed which can make sex and sexual activity painful as well as urination. Again, commercial lubricants can help lessen the discomfort, but talk to your doctor to see if he/she recommends a topical cream or possibly medication to help support blood flow stimulation to the vagina. [**Don’t forget to ask about both the benefits and any side effects.]
BACTERIAL INFECTIONS / GSM (Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause): Unfortunately, it is common for midlife and peri/menopausal women to be more prone to urinary tract infections due to the decrease in estrogen and progesterone causing an imbalance in the vaginal microflora (which basically means you are less protected against every day bacteria).
GSM or Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause is a pretty new term being used in the health care / menopause community basically defining the changes happening to the labia, clitoris, vagina, urethra, and bladder during this particular season in life. Symptoms of GSM include vaginal dryness, burning, itching, sexual discomfort, pain during sex, pain during urination, and urinary tract infections.
Good news is - there are several options when it comes to treating bacterial infections and GSM. Talk to your doctor if you feel like you are experiencing either one of these.
CLOSENESS AVOIDANCE: It’s not that you don’t want to be close with your partner, it just may not feel comfortable for several reasons. Common peri/menopause symptoms like hot flashes or night sweats may cause you to avoid being cuddled or simply touched due to discomfort.
Even things like joint pain or mood swings may demand that you avoid personal closeness. Again, the best thing you can do is openly share with your partner how you are feeling. The last thing you want is your partner to think you no longer find them desirable or touch worthy!
Check out my blog on Sex and Menopause: How to Communicate with your partner if you are struggling with starting that conversation.
Also, I have a fantastic unit on Sex and Perimenopause in my 7 week course Thriving in Midlife: How to Navigate Perimenopause and Beyond coming spring 2022 (so stay tuned!!)
And if you have a partner who wants to know more about the subject of midlife, menopause, and sexual health - please share with them my blog on What All Men Need to Know About Menopause