We asked Lovehoney’s sexpert Sarah Mulindwa to share her thoughts on how menopause affects sex drive as well as some tips and dvice on the things we can do to navigate through this challenging time.
Menopause is when a woman’s (or person who menstruates’) periods stop due to lower hormone levels. This truly is an emotionally and physically challenging time for women. With hormones all out of sync and a plethora of symptoms affecting women, often this time can feel isolating and lonely.
While we discuss many ways in which women are affected by menopause, one topic that takes a backseat ahead of emotional and physical wellbeing is the sexual wellbeing. Everyone should be entitled to a healthy and happy sex life, no matter your age, and it’s important to remember that sexual wellbeing in fact plays a key role in maintaining our emotional and physical health. It makes us happy, boosts our immune system, reduces blood pressure and of course makes us feel connected to our partners.
But when menopause hits, estrogen levels decrease, which can have an impact on your sexual function as it can lower desire and make it harder for you to become aroused. However, this doesn’t signify the end of your sex life, far from it; think about it as the next chapter in the discovery of sexual wellbeing – there are so many different things you can do to help stimulate your sex drive.
Menopause Awareness Month
With October being Menopause Awareness Month, now is the perfect time to discuss the effects of menopause on our sex drive and the ways in which we can get overcome this and continue to enjoy a healthy sex life. With over 15 years as a qualified Nurse, and over 10 years as a Senior sexual health and HIV Nurse, Lovehoney’s inhouse expert, Sarah Mulindwa provides expert tips and advice on how to increase arousal, so you can focus on your sexual wellbeing as well.
What is drive?
Drive is the biological component when it comes to sexual desire. It manifests as sexual thoughts and fantasies, erotic attraction to others, seeking out sexual activity, or genital tingling or sensitivity. Sarah explains, “sex drive can decrease gradually with age. Reduced sex drive becomes much more common in women starting in their late 40s, which is when most will first notice signs of menopause.”
How can menopause affect sex? Does decreased sex drive impact other aspects of life?
So, does low sex drive only impact our sex lives? The answer is not as straightforward, Sarah explains, “our emotional, physical and sexual wellbeing are interlinked and when we struggle in one of these places, we invariably struggle in others. Similarly, reduced sex drive can have an emotional and physical impact. With menopause, women can experience several changes such as dryness, decreased libido, lower drive and lastly, your body image might change.”
Therefore, it’s imperative that we push our sexual wellbeing to the forefront of this conversation and learn new ways in which sex can bring us joy, relief and pleasure. We all think we know exactly what we mean when we say “sex.” Sex is penetration and orgasm. But it’s so much more than that. It’s about intimacy, companionship, closeness, fun, and sensuality. Sex transcends penetration, and we need to talk more about broadening the definition of sex to include all manner of unexpected pleasures, encompassing the little things that were previously forgotten about.
What can we do?
While menopause can affect sex drive and intercourse might look and feel different from before, with a few tricks sex can be just as pleasurable and fun during and after menopause, if not more! Especially with lifestyle shifts and milestones, for examples kids moving out of the house, there is a greater control that one can experience. With increased privacy, freedom and desire to put your sexual wellbeing at the forefront of it all, sex can be much better than it used to be.
Sarah shares some ways which can help you increase your confidence, arousal and make your sexual wellbeing a priority.
- Be Open: Have an honest chat with your partner as soon as possible so you can avoid any potential areas of contention. Listen to your feelings and openly communicate what you need, sometimes little reassurances go a long way. Having a conversation about trying different positions can be a good idea and with all the changes you might find your new favourite position in something completely unexpected.
- Let’s Get Wet: Vaginal dryness is one reason why sex during menopause can be difficult. Using a lubricant can really help get those motors fired up as it enhances the sensation of touch. Whether it be your own hand, your partner’s fingers, or a toy, using a lubricant can make sex much more enjoyable for all involved.
- Build your body confidence: If your body confidence has changed, your taste in lingerie might too. If you’re feeling conscious about a certain part of your appearance, upgrading your lingerie collection can be just the ticket for feeling fabulous. Bustiers, chemises and babydolls are all great options for flattering your mid-section, while a body or teddy can draw attention to your legs.
- Practice Self-Love: Masturbation helps us to get to know our own bodies and what we like and what we don’t. When going through so many changes with menopause, practicing self-love can help you realign your needs, and get to know the new you. So, lube up, and grab a toy and start experimenting again.
- Introduce Toys: Toys are not just for self-love. If loss of sensitivity is an issue, then introducing toys can go a long way. Look for toys that stimulate other parts of the body instead of just the vulva or genitals. Body massagers, nipple clamps, butt plugs, ticklers, floggers, and crops, are all good choices for mixing it up and building that sensitivity.
- Take care of general wellbeing: Having a healthy diet and undertaking regular exercise is important for your general wellbeing, but did you know that this can be just as important for your libido too? Lifestyle choices and libido go hand in hand, so if you want to make a change to the latter, consider making a change to the former.
If your symptoms persist, please do seek medical advice.
Article by Sarah Mulindwa, sexual health expert at Lovehoney