By Rachel Lankester.
Sex and the menopause – a contentious subject?
But it doesn’t have to be contentious nor taboo! Menopause means your body’s changing and so may your sex life. But not necessarily for the worse. It may even be an exciting new beginning!
But if you’re suffering from menopause symptoms (or actually peri-menopause symptoms), experiencing decreased desire, and vaginal dryness is an issue, how do you keep sex a joy not a chore? If you’ve been with the same partner for a long time, how do you keep things fresh and exciting, especially if menopause symptoms have dented your self esteem?
What if you’re just not feeling sexy any more? It’s a truism that in a great relationship, sex isn’t so important, but in a bad one, it usually is! And what if you don’t have a partner to keep the wheels on the road? Then what?
Sex and the menopause may call for extra creativity. Here are some ideas to help keep you and your sex life sexy.
First off a delightful podcast from the Huffington Post that asks the question “What does sex really look like after 70?” NO, we’re not suggesting our readers are all over 70! But a lot of the podcast is just as relevant for women struggling with the changes menopause brings, particularly when it comes to changing hormones and the dreaded prospect of vaginal atrophy.
The podcast features a lot of very candid seniors talking about their sex lives and how important sex continues to be for them. It’s a very inspiring and hopeful half hour! One of the great facts highlighted is that as oestrogen and testosterone both decline, testosterone hangs around in the body more. So years after menopause, women can have as much testosterone in their system as they did in their twenties! This means your interest in sex doesn’t necessarily decline even if the body doesn’t respond quite as it used to. Here’s a great article that talks about sex actually getting better with age and the difference between one’s genital prime and one’s sexual prime.
The podcast raises a major issue of concern for many women both during and after menopause – vaginal dryness. Things can change down there and it can take many women longer to get aroused after menopause than when younger. Penetration can also be painful.
Sea buckthorn oil, taken as a food supplement, can help with intimate dryness, as well as giving a boost to skin, so they say. HRT should help and vaginal pessaries in the form of Vagifem (available on prescription in the UK), used either alone or in addition to standard HRT, can really help keep things moist. Just a couple a week may be all you need.
Then there are some great lubricants out there. The best of the commercial ones I’ve found is organic Yes natural water-based vaginal lubricant, also available on prescription in the UK. They also do an oil-based lube and a vaginal moisturizer. But I wish they’d do refillable dispensers for the moisturizer, so we can cut down on plastic while still getting the benefit! The same for the Vagifem pessaries which each come with a plastic dispenser – very wasteful. Reduce, reuse, recycle we say please!
But you may want to also try some wonderful organic coconut oil. It is really brilliant and moisturizers as well as lubricates. Organic coconut oil must be one of the most versatile products on the planet. As well as using it in the bedroom, for massage too, I wash my face and take my makeup off with it at night, I cook with it and it’s also a great general moisturizer.
Use it or lose it
Another podcast theme is use it or lose it. Your vagina isn’t going to shrivel up over night, but it pays to invest love and attention in its future health. If you’re a masturbation aficionado, keep up the good work and give your clitoris the attention it deserves. If you’re struggling to maintain previous levels of desire and sexual response, for whatever reason, vibrators might help both with a partner and without. But also don’t forget that desire can change from day to day, month to month. Don’t assume that because it’s dipped, it’s always going to be that way.
Not only can vibrators make orgasms a forgone conclusion (hooray!), but they are also useful during a dry spell to maintain sexual function and blood supply to the necessary area. And of course have fun! Vibrators can also be great for lighting that first spark of desire if it’s taking a while to get aroused with a partner, which may be a bit soul destroying for both of you.
My favourite vibrator supplier is Sh!, a women-run real-life and on-line store which is a veritable women’s erotic emporium. Everything you might have ever fantasied about, you can find at Sh!. Time Out describes it as the ‘best sex shop for women’ and there are hundreds of products for all sexual persuasions to tickle your fancy.
There’s loads of advice on their website, as well as classes in store if you live in London, UK. They also have plenty of erotica that might just wake you up in ways you thought were long since gone. Try out their egg vibrators if you haven’t already experienced these delightful little toys. They’re great for getting the juices going when you’re struggling to get in the mood. Sh! has given Mutton Club their advice for having great orgasms here.
Finally, for the orgasmically challenged or just sexually ambitious, decide to spend some time with Betty Dodson. Betty has made it her life’s mission to educate women on sexuality and masturbation, and to ensure that every woman achieves amazing and consistent orgasms. She recently teamed up with Carlin Ross, another sex educator, to amplify their collective voice and change more women’s lives. Their website is a mine of great information and their work constantly inspiring.
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See our features on thriving through menopause, perimenopause, food for menopause symptoms and on alcohol and the menopause.