It’s dangerous to generalise about sex and menopause. There are women who feel sexy during and after menopause, and then there are women who don’t. But there are a few hoary myths about sex menopause and aging we’d like to confront head on.
Myth No 1 It’s normal not to want sex after menopause
Women are affected by menopause in many different ways. While some feel less turned on sexually because of symptoms like vaginal dryness or night sweats, others feel “Grandma’s still got it” – and experience a new sense of release and zest when free from PMS, and monthly menstruation.
They enjoy new-found freedom and independence and say sex is better than ever. The best indicator of whether you will enjoy sex after menopause is whether you enjoyed it before menopause.
Myth No 2 Sex is painful after menopause
The thinning of the vaginal wall as women age can cause extra sensitivity, and lack of lubrication may require a natural cream to ease movement, but these are both issues that should not stop a woman from enjoying a healthy sex life.
Myth No 3 Once you turn 60 you’re past being sexy
Sexuality is not age bound. According to a survey by the National Council of Aging 70 per cent of sexually active women over 60 reported being as satisfied, or more satisfied with their sex lives than they were in the 40s.
Another study found 84 per cent of older females in 106 cultures studied were sexually active, leading the researchers to conclude cultural factors as much as biological ones determined whether older people were sexually active or not.
Myth No 4 My sex drive dies after menopause
Researchers have discovered when a menopausal women enters a new relationship she can be as horny as her 20 year old self. It seems it is her relationship rather than her gonads which determines how much she wants sex.
Although sexual drive may be lower, sexual desire may remain strong, depending on whether you have a partner you want to be intimate with and an appreciation that “I can still feel passionate about love at any age, if the circumstances are right.” (Eda LeShan in I Want More of Everything, New York, Newmarket Press 1994)
Myth No 5 As hormones decline, so does libido
A woman’s libido is not driven by her hormones. Libido is determined more by physical and emotional health, and the availability of a desirable partner.
Declining hormone levels can always be safely supplemented by bio identical hormones or a natural hormonal regime if necessary. Estrogen creams may be an option – check with a doctor who specialises in this area, rather than relying on your GP for advice. A locally applied estrogen cream taken in specific doses and for specific periods of time to thicken vaginal walls and restore vaginal secretions.
However note that vaginally applied estrogen cream should not be used as a lubricant and should not be applied before heterosexual sex, as estrogen absorbed through the penis has been associated with tumor growth in men. Condom use is sometimes suggested for full protection in such cases.
Myth No 6 Too much sex can worsen vaginal dryness
Doctors who specialise in sexual health are strongly of the view that sex at this stage and age is very much a “use it or lose it” proposition. Having sex regularly actually helps increase blood flow to the vaginal wall, increasing your ability to lubricate during sexual arousal and improving your overall sexual health.
Myth No 7 My slower response is a turn off
Psychology Today reports men’s and women’s sexual needs tend to converge after 50, with men valuing the emotional aspects of sex – the feeling close to someone – more as they age. Assuming both are in good health, older men and women may be more sexually compatible than ever.
You may have to work harder to reach orgasm, says Dorree Lynn, PhD, a psychologist and sex educator who works with the AARP in Washington, DC, and the author of the forthcoming book Sex for Grownups: Dr. Dorree Reveals the Truths, Lies and Must Tries for Great Sex After 50.
Says Dr Dorree; “Fifty isn’t the new 20, its being 50 and loving every aspect of who you are and your breadth of experience.”
Myth No 8 There’s nothing you can do for vaginal dryness
Vaginal dryness happens to almost every woman, according to Sari Locker, a sex expert and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amazing Sex. But there are plenty of personal lubricants available which can help solve this issue with no fuss.
Choose one that is personally acceptable to you. Water based solutions are recommended, and if you can avoid parabens chemicals all the better. Some therapists recommend regular massage with a natural cream to improve elasticity.
Myth No 9 No one will fancy my aging body
Sex drive and function are key ingredients in a healthy sex life. Exercise regularly, maintain good muscle tone, eat healthily, don’t abuse alcohol and keep smiling!
If you keep yourself fit and active the changes in your body will not be particularly noticeable. And your partner is just as likely to feel insecure about his physical image as he ages. A sense of humour and good communication can quickly dispel doubts over flagging self esteem.
And just to reassure you, your vagina will not shrivel up like a prune. While the loss of estrogen does cause some change, it is mostly undetectable to the eye. “Many women don’t notice the changes at all,” says Hope Ricciotti, MD, a gynecologist who teaches at Harvard Medical School.
Myth No 10 I don’t need to worry about sexually transmitted disease
It’s an unfortunate reality that sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in the over 50s. Unless you have been married to your partner for years, take care and insist on condoms with new partners.