When you reach your 50s, it might seem like sex should be better than ever: you don’t have to worry about getting pregnant, having sex while you are on your period, being walked in on by your children, etc. But it usually doesn’t work that way.
As this article by Johns Hopkins explains, sex is not the same after menopause as it was before.
While you may have greater freedom, this is also a stage of life with a lot of changes that can affect intimacy. You’re redefining your roles and relationship as the kids leave home and you get ready to retire. And you’re changing physically.
A Change in Desire
Women’s estrogen drops during menopause (when you haven’t had a period in 12 months) and the years leading up to it, called perimenopause. This change has a big impact on sexual function. It can lower desire and make it more difficult to become aroused. It can also make the vaginal canal less elastic, and you may experience dryness, which can cause painful intercourse.
More than a third of women report having sexual difficulties, from lack of interest in sex to trouble having an orgasm after menopause.
Additionally, with age you’re more likely to experience health problems. Chronic illness and injuries can
- deplete energy,
- cause physical pain and
- mess with your body image,
all of which affect your sex drive.
A Natural Reduction in Intercourse
Intercourse in later years often isn’t as pleasurable for couples as was when they were younger. Body changes such as vaginal dryness and erectile dysfunction can interfere with satisfactory sexual intercourse.
Other factors can influence a woman’s interest in sex during menopause and after. These include:
- Bladder control problems, which can be addressed with pelvic floor exercises, reduced liquid (especially drinks with caffeine) consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, and extending the time between bathroom
- Sleep issues
- Hot flashes
- Depression or anxiety
- Weight gain
- Health concerns
As we age, blood fills our genitals more slowly when we become aroused, which means less sensitivity; reaching orgasm takes longer.
Typically, post-menopausal women need more direct and intense stimulation of the clitoris to orgasm.
Half of women in their 50s continue having intercourse. By their 70s, only 27 percent of women are doing so. And many of them, and their partners, are fine with that.
Physical or psychological concerns don’t mean you can’t be intimate. Lubricants, vaginal moisturizers and prescription drugs can all help.
And there are other ways of staying connected. Cuddling, sharing a bed and laughing together are just a few ways of express intimacy.
While many couples remain sexually active during their senior years, women often become less sexual when getting aroused or having an orgasm are troublesome. Mental engagement and physical stimulation can help.
Forget what you think everybody else is doing and focus on what works for you and your partner.
Living Your Best Life
Communicating with your partner is key to setting realistic expectations.
Living an overall healthy life (getting enough sleep, having a support system, exercising and eating healthfully) can also go a long way toward helping you focus on and feel good about being intimate.
Intimacy has emotional, psychological, intellectual and spiritual aspects. The level of emotional intimacy in interpersonal relationships is among the strongest predictors of health and life satisfaction.
I have found that couples with a higher level of intimacy–whether that includes intercourse or not–are more able to cope with relationship stresses.
Sex therapists in Charlotte can help you navigate intimacy before, during and after menopause for a happier, healthier life.