Boosting Your Sexual Health During Menopause and Beyond

Menopause sends your body on a rollercoaster — from hot flashes, night sweats, changes in your mood, and even hair loss. Your hormone levels are sharply declining, which can impact your sexual health and intimacy with others. Keep reading to learn more about caring for your needs throughout menopause and beyond.

How Does Menopause Affect Your Sex Drive?

From the time you start puberty, your ovaries begin making the female sex hormone estrogen. It’s responsible for triggering your menstrual cycle and controlling fertility. As you age, your ovaries naturally make less estrogen, and your chances of becoming pregnant decline. By your 40s and early 50s, perimenopause sets in, and your menstrual periods change and eventually stop.

During perimenopause, your estrogen levels drop significantly. This can have a noticeable impact on your sex drive. Many women report that:

  • They have a difficult time becoming aroused or experiencing an orgasm
  • Sex is more painful because they experience vaginal dryness 
  • They bleed during sex
  • Their mood changes, and they may become irritable or depressed
  • They’re uncomfortable with their body after experiencing weight gain or body changes due to menopause

If any of these situations sound familiar, you’re not alone. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, over one-third of women who are perimenopausal or postmenopausal experience sexual difficulties. If you’re looking for ways to boost your sexual health, we’re here to help.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Open communication with your partner is also key to navigating your declining libido with menopause. Maybe your idea of intimacy is changing but remember that your partner isn’t a mind reader. Take time to sit down together and reconnect about what you want in a sexual relationship. Work together to find experiences that would be enjoyable for you together.

You can also try new ideas — whether you go shopping for new toys or magazines at your local adult boutique or take time to build a new routine. Intimacy can be more than sex, as well. Massages, shared baths, caressing, and other activities can be just as special as intercourse.

Managing Vaginal Dryness and Discomfort

While menopause symptoms can be uncomfortable and dampen your libido, many of them can be treated with medications. Consider making a doctor’s appointment to talk about ways to address your symptoms and take control of your sexual health.

For example, if you’re experiencing vaginal dryness and pain during sex, it’s likely because your vaginal walls are thinning. This occurs when your estrogen levels drop. You may also notice you need to urinate more often or you’re having recurrent urinary tract infections. Doctors refer to this as genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM).

Your doctor can give you tips for managing vaginal dryness and even prescribe you medications to help. Vaginal moisturizers can add some much-needed moisture back to the area. Examples recommended by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center include Revaree®, HYALO GYN®, and ReplensTM Long-Lasting Vaginal Moisturizer.

Water-based lubricants are also great to use right before intercourse for a smooth experience. Pick up a bottle of K-Y Jelly or other lubricant of your choice next time you’re at the drugstore. Some even have special warming properties to spice things up in the bedroom — but be careful, as you may be sensitive to the ingredients.

Some prescriptions are also useful for treating vaginal dryness and uncomfortable symptoms associated with menopause. Your doctor can give you:

  • Topical estrogen creams or suppositories
  • Vaginal inserts that deliver hormones directly to the vagina
  • Non-hormonal treatments like ospemifene (Osphena), a daily pill to treat moderate-to-severe GSM

Taking Care of Your Physical and Mental Health

We all know it’s important to stick with a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and seek help when we need it. But it’s also much easier said than done. Your body is going through many changes during menopause, and it’s normal to feel uncomfortable or out of place.

Try adding more vegetables like beets or leafy greens to your diet. Studies show that they contain nitrates that help relax your blood vessels and can improve blood flow to the vaginal area. Soy products like tofu and tempeh contain plant-based estrogens that may help improve perimenopausal and postmenopausal symptoms.

Your mental health is just as important as your physical well-being. If you’re dealing with depression or anxiety, it can take a toll on your sexual health. Talk to your doctor if you’ve started experiencing symptoms of these mental health conditions. They can offer treatments to help, but it’s worth noting that antidepressants can also negatively affect your libido.

Exercising Your Pelvic Floor

We’ve all heard of Kegels, but what do they actually do? These exercises work the muscles in your pelvic floor, which is responsible for supporting your bladder and uterus above the vagina. Working your pelvic floor muscles can help reduce pain during sex and improve urinary symptoms you may experience during menopause and after. Check out The North American Menopause Society’s website for more information on Kegel exercises and pelvic floor physical therapy.

Boosting Your Sexual Health During Menopause and Beyond Infographic

By Emily Wagner

Emily earned a Bachelor of Science in biotechnology from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2018 and a Master of Science in biomedical sciences with a focus in pharmacology from University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in 2020. During her thesis work, she studied non-small cell lung cancer and how the immune system plays a role in response to different treatments. Emily feels privileged to use her research acumen and scientific mind to write about topics that advance the health and wellbeing of others. She currently lives in Colorado where she enjoys the mountains, spending time with her dog, baking, and reading a good book.