Because knowledge is power.
Menopause gets a bad rap in the sexual department, but let us be the first to tell you: your love life can be awesome during this time.
A very common concern we hear from women entering menopause is: “will I still want sex after menopause?” Quickly followed by, “will everything work the same??”
There’s been so much disinformation out there about this stage of life, and so many defeating messages thrown at women. No wonder they’re discourage and confused. It’s time to change that, with up-to-date research and proactive steps any woman can take to continue advancing her sexual health. If you want sex in your fifties and beyond, don’t worry: with the correct hormonal insight, you can absolutely work with your body to have it.
Below, the four most common questions we hear about menopause and your sex life, and the latest science answering those questions.
Will my desire plummet after menopause?
OK, real talk: it might. But! It doesn’t have to stay that way permanently. It’s worth noting that everyone’s life situation is unique — some women have had a hysterectomy by this age, for example — but hormonally-speaking, what typically tends to happen is this: your estrogen levels drop sharply at menopause, and your testosterone levels decline slowly and steadily with age. These are two of your most critical sex hormones, so this change can definitely affect your drive. But check this out: According to Jane E. Brody, “Testosterone levels in women decline by about 50 percent between the ages of 20 and 45, and the amount of testosterone produced continues to decline gradually as women age…For some women, the increased ratio of testosterone to estrogen that occurs after menopause gives their sex drive a boost.” (Our emphasis added.)
So a “plummet” isn’t inevitable, is what we’re saying. But for most women, lower levels of estrogen will have an affect on your desire and arousability. This is why the key is hormone health, and to be more specific, hormone balance. Estrogen is always doing a delicate dance with your progesterone, so tackling estrogen or testosterone directly may not be best for everyone,if you’re trying to boost your sex drive. Rather, encouraging your body to produce more of its own progesterone may be the key to optimal estrogen levels.
Can I orgasm after menopause?
You sure can! It may take a little longer or require different physical stimulation, but don’t worry: your orgasm doesn’t suddenly disappear.
Now, let’s talk shop. The much-hyped “pink pill,” Addyi, was supposed to help women in this department, but according to the National Women’s Health Network, “after adjusting for placebo, only about 10 to 12 percent of women in the drug’s clinical trials reported even minimal benefits from the drug. And, the drug doesn’t make it easier for women to achieve orgasm or make sex more enjoyable for either partner.”
So if you’re finding orgasm harder to achieve, Addyi probably isn’t the best route. Also, it’s worth looking at what factors could be contributing to decreased blood flow to your genitals: Drugs to lower blood pressure, for instance can delay or prevent orgasm, while antidepressants — especially SSRIs — can also make orgasm tough to achieve.
But medication aside, some of the most helpful solutions for orgasm are easily accessible. Here are some ideas from Harvard Health Publishing — clinical trials have demonstrated that each of these may be helpful in stimulating arousal and orgasm:
Zestra. A massage oil that creates a sensation of warmth throughout the genital area, Zestra increased desire, arousal, and satisfaction in 70% of the women enrolled in clinical trials required for FDA approval. It is available over the counter for around $10.
Eros Clitoral Therapy Device. Eros increases genital blood flow by applying a gentle vacuum to the clitoris. In one clinical trial, 90% of women reported an increase in sensation, and 80% reported increased sexual satisfaction. Available only by prescription, it costs around $250.
Vibrators. There is no dearth of these devices, none of which requires FDA approval, so there aren’t a lot of studies demonstrating their effectiveness. In one of the few clinical trials—a 2016 study of 70 women who had difficulty becoming aroused or reaching orgasm—two-thirds of participants reported increased vaginal lubrication, orgasm, and genital sensation after using a vibrator for three months.
Can I still get pregnant after menopause?
We’ll keep this short and sweet: it’s possible, but not likely.
Menopause is defined by not having a period for 12 months straight, which means that during perimenopause — when your period is phasing out — ovulation can still occur. There are medical interventions currently being explored, too: in a 2018 study, where four menopausal study participants were injected with platelet rich plasma, all four produced an egg capable of being extracted for fertilization. And an older study examined the use of melatonin to restore menstruation in perimenopausal and menopausal women and the results were promising, though not conclusive.
This is all to say that without the help of science, it’s pretty unlikely. But do be careful and use precaution at the first onset of menopause, if pregnancy is not your goal.
Will my sexual organs change after menopause?
Lowered estrogen levels do contribute to a change in your vagina: notably, thinner walls, less elasticity, and more dry. This is simply a sign, though, that your body is transitioning into no longer being fertile – not a sign that you have to stop sex altogether.
How to treat it? OTC options like vaginal lubricants and moisturizers are available at your nearest drugstore; on the other end of the spectrum are laser treatments that restore lubrication and elasticity to the vaginal and vulvar tissues, like the Mona Lisa or FemiLift treatments. But keep in mind that diet and supplementation both play a significant role in your estrogen levels: we love the “dietary first aid” options Dr. Laurie Steelsmith discusses in this VitaCost article. Here’s what she says for estrogen:
“Certain foods can appreciably enhance your body’s natural ability to create friendly estrogen and reduce unfriendly estrogen. Cruciferous vegetables—such as broccoli, broccoli sprouts, and cauliflower—may increase your friendly estrogen metabolism, thanks to their high levels of indole-3-carbinol (a phytochemical that can enhance hormonal health). High cooking temps can destroy indole-3-carbinol, so be sure to eat them raw or lightly steamed. Other top options? Seaweed, seeds, sesame, flax, rosemary and salmon.”
The Bottom Line
After menopause, your sex life might look different, but it doesn’t have to disappear. With a strategic approach, you can enjoy healthy sexuality well into this chapter of your life.
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