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Menopause affects every woman between the ages of 47 and 53 years of age. Menopause occurs as a result of a decrease in the production of estrogen, the female sex hormone. One of the myths associated with menopause is that there is concomitant decrease in libido or desire for sex. Loss of sexual desire is one of the most common symptoms of menopause with somewhere between 20% and 45% of menopausal women reporting a decrease in their sex drive. Although some women will experience a decrease in their sex drive, many women will have a normal or even a heightened sex drive after menopause. This article will discuss the symptoms associated with menopause and what women can do to enhance their enjoyment of sexual intimacy after menopause.

Menopause is accompanied by some or all of the following symptoms:

  • the vagina and vulva (the vaginal opening) may become a little dryer -- a common complaint of menopausal women -- which can make your vagina too delicate to handle penetration. Declining estrogen levels prevent increased blood flow from traveling to your pelvis. The result is the thinning of your vaginal walls, and less lubrication during sex. Intercourse can range from uncomfortable to extremely painful
  • as a result, the woman may become slightly more vulnerable to urinary infections and urinary incontinence
  • the breasts may lose some of their bulk
  • the skin may become a little less elastic
  • hot flushes
  • sweating attacks

However, a lot of women sail through the menopause with little or nothing in the way of unpleasant symptoms. Many women enjoy wonderful sex lives after they've passed the menopause, and continue to do so for a very long time. The good news is that women are more likely to be orgasmic after the 'change' than younger females and they are also more likely to be multi-orgasmic! The reasons for the improvement in sexuality after menopause occur because women are glad to be able to quit worrying about contraception, middle-age women have also gained a great deal of love-making experience and skill, and finally, middle age women may have partners who actually know what they're doing in bed!

Solutions for the menopausal woman wishing to be sexually active

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

HRT means giving natural or synthetic female sex hormones that replace the hormones which the woman is not producing enough of.

HRT comes in the form of tablets, patches or gels and always contains estrogen (either in a natural or synthetic form), and often a progestin as well. HRT is effective for relieving menopausal symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. Unfortunately, HRT is not as free from side-effects and women need to discuss the topic with their physicians. However, if used sensibly, it can be a great help to many women - particularly where sex is concerned.

One particularly important use of a form of HRT is the application of hormone creams (or hormone-containing pessaries or rings) to the vagina to correct vaginal soreness and dryness. These vaginal hormone products can sometimes improve urinary symptoms such as urinary incontinence which may also occur around the menopause.

Lubricants

Using lubricants during sex can make intercourse less painful and more enjoyable. Though lubricants will not provide long-term relief for your low libido, it can provide temporary relief. I recommend using water-soluble lubricants such as Astroglide or K-Y Jelly. Do not use non-water soluble lubricants such as Vaseline because they can weaken latex (the material used to make condoms, which should continue to be used to avoid pregnancy until your doctor verifies you are not producing anymore eggs and to prevent contracting sexually transmitted diseases). Non-water soluble lubricants can also provide a medium for bacterial growth, particularly in a person whose immune system has been weakened by chemotherapy.

Bottom Line: Most women can experience and can enjoy sexual intimacy even after menopause. If you have any questions, contact your physician.