While many women comfortably talk about the hot flashes, night sweats, and fatigue associated with menopause, the impact of menopause on a woman’s sex life isn’t something that’s frequently shared. But the physical and emotional effects of menopause can result in dramatic changes in how you experience intimacy.
Every woman experiences menopause differently, but many changes can impact different aspects of your sex life. One of the most common changes involves pain with sex, a condition called dyspareunia, which affects up to 45% of postmenopausal women.
Menopause can change the way you experience sex, although it doesn’t have to put an end to your sex life. Our OB/GYNs at The Association for Women’s Health Care in Chicago and Northbrook, Illinois, provide expert care as you transition to menopause.
Our physicians are menopause specialists who can help you stay healthy and sexually active through menopause and beyond. They can diagnose the source of symptoms interfering with your sex life and offer treatment options to help you enjoy intimacy.
Read on to learn more about some of the most common ways that menopause can affect your sex life.
When you have regular periods, changing hormone levels cause your sex drive to peak just before and after ovulation. But without a monthly cycle to facilitate arousal, you may have less interest in sex.
Lower hormone levels after menopause can also cause insomnia and mood swings. The results can cause:
Emotional changes can also affect the way you think about your body, your sexuality, and your self-esteem. These conditions can have just as much of a debilitating effect on a your sex drive as the physical changes of menopause.
A reduced sex drive can strain relationships and interfere with maintaining a normal sex life. You can resolve many issues by discussing your condition and treatment options with your OB/GYN.
Changes in hormone levels mean that the tissues and blood vessels in your vagina and vulva receive less estrogen. The effect can result in vulvovaginal atrophy, a condition in which the vulva and vaginal tissues lose thickness, elasticity, and moisture.
Vulvovaginal atrophy can cause the tissues of the vagina and vulva to become dry, thin out, and lose their folds. While these changes aren’t visible to the naked eye, the changes can make these areas more likely to become bruised, broken, and irritated. The friction of intercourse increases the likelihood of painful tissue damage and intensifies discomfort.
Pain during intercourse can also occur if you develop atrophic vaginitis, an inflammation of the vaginal tissues that results from reduced estrogen levels. Symptoms can include pain, swelling, burning, and itching, which can become more painful during penetration and intercourse.
You can help offset the impact of some of these symptoms with regular sexual activity. This helps maintain vaginal health because it increases blood flow to the area, which can protect your vagina’s muscle tone, shape, and elasticity. Hormone replacement therapy is another option.
One of the most common effects of menopause is vaginal dryness. The condition affects about one out of every three women at this stage of life.
Before menopause, your body produces extra moisture to aid sexual intercourse when you’re aroused during foreplay. As estrogen levels decline, your vagina loses its ability to produce adequate natural lubrication. The onset of vaginal dryness is also associated with vulvovaginal atrophy and atrophic vaginitis.
Vaginal dryness can cause pain during intercourse as the rubbing creates friction without lubrication. You may find relief by using over-the-counter lubricants prior to intercourse. Other treatment options, including hormone therapy and prescription medications or creams, may also be appropriate depending on your condition.
Find out more about the impact of menopause on your sex life and what you can do about it. Schedule an appointment online or call one of our convenient offices to arrange a consultation.