Last Updated on November 22, 2022 by Editorial Staff
By Rachel Lankester, Mutton Club Editor
Adapted from Mutton Club editor Rachel’s book – Magnificent Midlife: Transform Your Middle Years, Menopause and Beyond.
A declining libido is often cited as a symptom of menopause. But there can be lots of other things going on in midlife that can impact your sex drive. Here are our top tips for how to increase libido in menopause.
1. Don’t assume lack of libido is necessarily caused by menopause
You might just be bored, stressed, completely emotionally depleted, or all of the above! By the time your hormones settle post menopause, you may actually have more testosterone in your body relative to other sex hormones than ever before. You may be raring to go. Other issues, such as vaginal dryness, may complicate matters if your libido is fine.
This is one instance of a possible mismatch between vaginal dryness and libido. On the other hand, you may have been in your relationship for a very long time by the time you get to midlife, and sex could just be a bit dull. So go easy on yourself and stay open to possibility.
2. Spice things up
However close you may feel to your partner emotionally, maybe you could do with spicing things up a little in the bedroom. Esther Perel has a wonderful book called Mating in Captivity, which outlines how to keep desire and passion alive in long-term relationships. She describes how our quest for secure love is actually in conflict with our pursuit of passion and explains how both democracy and intimacy are passion killers in the bedroom. If you’re committed to your partner but sex has become a bit bleh, this is a good book to start with.
3. Invest in your relationship
If you’ve let your intimate relationship slide or have drifted apart from your significant other and that’s affecting your sex life, start reinvesting in both of them. John Gottman’s The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work is brilliant for reconnecting with a distant partner. It’s so easy to lose sight of the person we fell in love with after years of domesticity.
Do the exercises in the book and see if anything changes. If you can, try to somehow find a balance between this book on strengthening intimacy and the one by Esther Perel, which recommends creating more uncertainty in a relationship. If you succeed, please write your own book because it will be the new Holy Grail!
4. Accommodate hormonal changes, take sex back to pleasure and experiment
My online membership has a wonderful workshop on the importance of pleasure (and intimacy), and it’s so important. Take the pressure off. It’s a very disconcerting fact that vaginal tissue not only gets thinner and dryer as estrogen reduces, but the vagina may also become shorter and narrower. This is particularly the case if you’re not having intercourse or other vaginal sexual activity. Yes, sorry to tell you this.
It isn’t a problem for all women, but it can make vaginal sex uncomfortable and sometimes painful. Whether or not you’ve given birth vaginally or how easy or difficult births were for you (for example, if you had an episiotomy and have scar tissue), it can all affect how comfortable vaginal intercourse is during and after menopause. For example, I didn’t give birth vaginally, and my vagina never stretched to accommodate a baby’s head. I don’t find it surprising that my main menopause-related issue has been vaginal sensitivity.
Heterosexual sex doesn’t always have to be PIV (penis in vagina). I love that there’s an acronym for this! There’s so much more to explore. “Outercourse” can be a lot of fun, too: think teenage dry humping without clothes on. Alternately, try oral or manual stimulation instead of PIV for a while, until you feel more vaginally aroused.
You can take turns to give nonsexual pleasure to each other. Make it about giving and see what happens. If you both want PIV, then experiment with depth if vaginal pain is an issue. The more vaginal sexual activity you have (without the pain, of course), the less it’s likely your vagina will shorten and narrow. Grab a great lubricant and give it a go.
The head of a man’s penis is the most sensitive part. In other words, he can get a ton of pleasure by inserting just the head of the penis in your vagina. If you get the angle right, you can get the clitoral stimulation you need too. Chances are that will be satisfying for you both, and a lot less scary if full PIV is just too painful right now.
5. The Three-Minute Game
The Three-Minute Game is a fun approach to try. It’s another tool to take the pressure off and brings back playfulness. It’s about giving and receiving pleasure within a time limit and sharing equally. The game is an exercise for two or more people, where specific questions are asked. The game helps partners communicate and refine their capacity to give and receive in a relationship. Get your timer out!
6. Invest in a good lubricant
A good lubricant is so important! My current favorite is Pjur Woman silicone lubricant. I used to insist on organic and liked Yes products, and even coconut oil, which can be great. But because Pjur stays on the skin and isn’t absorbed, it’s super smooth and lasts. It’s seriously good. I have very sensitive skin and am fine with it. I use the one designed specifically for women.
Listen to Dr Sonia Wright on the Magnificent Midlife Podcast
7. Invest in sex toys
Seriously: invest in sex toys. I first discovered them in my mid-30s and they changed my life! If becoming aroused is an issue, a small but powerful bullet vibrator directed at your clitoris may get your bits responding if they’re not performing as you want them to. Similarly, vibrators can help us have fabulous orgasms with or without penetration. They’re fun with or without a partner.
8. Have fun and pleasure yourself
Self-play is particularly important as we age. It keeps blood flowing to the vulval area and keeps us able to respond sexually. There’s some truth to the adage “use it or lose it,” as we’ve seen above. But “using it” doesn’t necessarily mean PIV sex. If you’re forcing painful or uncomfortable penetration, that’s only going to cause more issues as anxiety around performance creeps in, and you get into a vicious cycle that leads to even less arousal. Not a good way to increase libido in menopause! But keep pleasuring yourself without a partner, as well as with, if you have one.
9. Care for your vagina like you care for your face
If your vagina’s not as healthy and comfortable as it can be, your libido can suffer from the stress. Coconut oil can be good to moisturize your vagina. There are also several organic vaginal moisturizers on the market now, including Yes products. Be careful what you use because you don’t want to introduce more chemicals into this most sensitive of areas (they could make matters much worse). Sea buckthorn oil taken as a supplement can also be helpful for maintaining the health of our vaginal tissue.
If there’s itching and irritation of the vulva, first try changing whatever you use to wash the area. Make your cleansers as natural as possible, or even use nothing at all. If irritation persists, visit your doctor. Our vaginas can clean themselves, so never ever ever buy vaginal cleaning products. Similarly, if you want to use soap on your vulva, find a natural one and only use a little bit.
My body soap is completely natural and made with olive oil. If I use anything else, I’m in trouble. Similarly, I switched to all-cotton undies and never plan to go back to synthetic ones, no matter how nice they may look. My vulva is much more comfortable. Something about our hormones changing makes us so much more sensitive to things that would previously not have bothered us. It’s time to start listening to our bodies again.
10. Try localized estrogen
If it’s just too painful to consider vaginal sex and you want that, get some estrogen pessaries/suppositories or estrogen cream. With my vagina tending towards the tight side of comfortable, I occasionally go back to localized estrogen to loosen things up a bit. From an environmental standpoint, I wish the Vagifem estrogen pessaries weren’t packaged as one pill in a long plastic dispenser inside a wrapper of foil and plastic.
I have no problem reusing the dispenser, but that isn’t an option. I changed to an estrogen cream, Ovestin, instead, as there is only one applicator per tube rather than per dose. I feel a bit better about that. I also feel more comfortable having this localized version of estrogen, rather than systemic hormone therapy. Not experiencing pain really helps increase libido in menopause! Don’t forget that the dryness and sensitivity may not last post menopause. Don’t assume that this is the way things will be permanently. Once your hormones settle post menopause everything may improve.
11. Have fun with compromise
What to do if you just don’t want as much sex as your partner does? This can happen to the best of us; remember that a current lapse in interest doesn’t mean a permanent one. It may just seem like too much of a bother (and there’s so much else on your to-do list, right?) Enter the two-minute solution. This wonderful book, My Spouse Wants More Sex Than Me: The 2-Minute Solution for a Happier Marriage, transformed my relationship.
Sex used to be about lots of foreplay, and if I wasn’t in the mood, it went on and on, as my beloved tried to get me going. I’d be back to my mental to-do list in no time—that’s not just me, right? Now we just laugh, say “two minutes?” whip out the Pjur lube and away we go. Turns out I don’t want a lot of foreplay very often anymore, anyway. Just give me the orgasm!
Often my egg vibrator gets to play too, and we all have fun. Sometimes it turns into quite a bit longer than two minutes, and sometimes it doesn’t. It also doesn’t have to mean PIV sex, though it usually does. It always ends with a smile on both our faces. The Two Minute Solution is designed for younger couples with kids and work in the way of sex, but it works just as well for older folks too. Give it a go. What do you have to lose?
12. Try a little mindfulness
I never would’ve thought that mindfulness could help women with our sexual response, but it can. If we start paying attention to sexual triggers and sensations in our bodies, instead of going off on our mental to-do lists, we can cultivate more desire. If we think back to when sex was best and we were really turned on, it’s likely we were completely in the moment. We can lose that focus as time goes by. Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire, by Lori A Brotto offers advice and exercises for reconnecting with our sexual selves.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our 12 ways to increase libido in menopause. There are lots of ways to help keep you sexy! It’s important to remember sex should be fun. Keep it fun, take the pressure off, and everything gets that much easier. So keep having fun!
Rachel Lankester is the founder of Magnificent Midlife, author, host of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast, a midlife mentor and editor of the Mutton Club online magazine. After an initially devastating early menopause at 41, she dedicated herself to helping women vibrantly transition through the sometimes messy middle of life, helping them cope better with menopause and ageing in general, and create magnificent next chapters. She’s been featured in/on BBC Woman’s Hour, The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Thrive Global, Authority Magazine, The Age Buster, Woman’s Weekly, Prima Magazine, eShe, Tatler HK and Woman’s Own amongst others. She believes we just get better with age. Get her book Magnificent Midlife: Transform Your Middle Years, Menopause and Beyond.