The transition through menopause is a complex one, and for many women, quite disruptive to your life and sexual well-being. Thankfully, for the numerous potential causes of sexual problems during menopause, there are just as many strategies and treatments to help you overcome these challenges.
Dr. Heripsime Ohanian of Bergen Aesthetics, in Paramus, New Jersey, has more than 25 years of experience as a leading gynecologist and aesthetic specialist helping women successfully navigate the unknown territory of their transition through this change of life. If menopause is on your horizon, start incorporating these sexual wellness tips today.
Problem: vaginal dryness and painful sex
Tip: Lubricants, hormone therapy, and regular sexual activity.
It’s a common problem. Before age 50, only about 17% of women experience issues concerning vaginal dryness and painful sex; but after 50, vaginal dryness affects more than half of all women.
As your hormones gradually produce less estrogen, your vaginal walls begin to thin and become less elastic than they were when you were younger.
Additionally, lower levels of estrogen often result in a drop in the blood supply to your vagina, which leads to less lubrication and potential discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse. Regular sexual activity can stimulate and improve vaginal blood flow. Using lubricants or vaginal moisturizers can relieve dryness in the moment as well as long term.
If lubricants and moisturizers don’t help as much as you’d like, Dr. Ohanian may also prescribe low-dose vaginal estrogen therapy in the form of a cream or vaginal insert. MonaLisa Touch® laser treatments can also alleviate vaginal dryness and other menopausal symptoms so sex becomes more pleasurable.
Problem: low libido, less desire for sex
Tip: Address physical symptoms, focus on intimacy, and communicate with your partner.
Low libido and less desire for sex and intimacy with your partner can stem from both physical and emotional issues. If you suffer from vaginal dryness or atrophy, and sex becomes painful, it’s not likely to be at the top of your priority list. After all, it’s natural to avoid things that cause pain or discomfort.
Try using a vaginal moisturizer or lubricant for physical changes, and then make intimacy more of a priority. During the changes of menopause, it’s important to be intimate on a regular basis to keep your body “in shape” and functioning well for sexual activity. Communicating with your partner about your concerns and the physical changes your body is going through can also help a great deal.
If it takes more time for you to become aroused, plan ahead for that. Let your partner know your needs. Talking about the physical and emotional changes that are occurring within you as they are happening can go a long way in helping you work through things together.
Problem: Mood swings
Tip: Exercise more.
Mood swings during perimenopause (the time leading up to menopause) are common as your hormones fluctuate. Feeling sad or upset can also contribute to lack of sexual desire. The solution is a simple one: exercise more.
Not only will exercising help your body achieve or maintain good physical health, but the endorphins your body releases when you exercise also boost your mood so you feel better. Positive emotions often translate to a healthier outlook for your sex life.
You can also do specific exercises to strengthen your pelvic muscles and enhance sensations during sex. Kegel exercises, in which you contract your pelvic muscles, tone and strengthen vaginal muscles. This can help increase arousal and blood flow to your vagina, improve orgasms, and alleviate urinary incontinence problems.
Remember: menopause is complex; one solution doesn’t fit all.
It’s important to keep in mind that a lower libido and less interest in sex while you’re going through the physical and emotional transition of menopause are the result of many different factors.
Each of these can impact your sexual health, so identifying the underlying causes of your sexual problem can help you, your partner, and Dr. Ohanian determine the best way to approach improving things.
During menopause, in addition to a decrease in estrogen and testosterone levels, you may also experience:
- Urinary incontinence
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Depression or anxiety
- Sleep disturbances
- Night sweats or hot flashes
- Relationship concerns
- Vaginal dryness or atrophy
If you’re one of the many women who experience these challenges during your transition to menopause, it’s important to realize your path to sexual well-being may benefit from a multidisciplinary approach. In other words, medications or lubricants can address physical issues, while counseling—alone or with your partner—can help with the emotional challenges.
Be proactive. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Ohanian today to talk about ways to navigate the unfamiliar waters of menopause. Call the office or request an appointment online.