Menopause and sex facts
- Although menopause may have some negative effects on sexual function, this is not always the case.
- Each woman’s experience of menopause is unique; not all women have the same symptoms or experience symptoms with the same degree of severity.
- Decreases in estrogen levels after menopause can cause a decrease in libido.
- Vaginal dryness is another symptom of menopause that can have an impact on sexual function.
- Hormone therapy and water-soluble lubricants are two ways to help relieve vaginal dryness associated with menopause.
- Other symptoms of menopause, like trouble sleeping and mood swings, can also interfere with enjoyment of sexual activity.
How does menopause affect sexual function?
Just as every women experiences menopause differently, women may or may not experience changes in sexual function after menopause. Since estrogen levels are lower after menopause, some women may notice that their libido, or sex drive, is decreased. Low estrogen levels can also lead to a decreased blood flow to the vagina, resulting in difficulty with lubrication or dryness that can make sexual intercourse less pleasant and painful for many women.
Not all women report negative changes in sexual function after menopause. For example, some women may find sex to be more enjoyable without the fear of pregnancy or without the potential stresses of having small children.
What are some symptoms of menopause that can affect sexual function?
A decrease in estrogen levels is the hallmark of menopause, and this change in hormone level can cause a number of different symptoms. Not all women experience all the characteristic symptoms of menopause, but some women may have more severe symptoms than others. In addition to vaginal dryness and decreased libido, menopause can be associated with other troublesome symptoms that can affect sexual drive and function. Examples of these symptoms include trouble sleeping, hot flashes, headache, mood changes, stress, anxiety, and bladder control problems. These symptoms alone are sufficient to affect sexual function in some women.
What are some treatments for troubling symptoms of menopause?
Estrogen therapy (ET) is available for women to treat symptoms of menopause, although due to some health risks (see below), not all women wish to take estrogen therapy. Estrogen, in pill, patch, trandscermal spray, or gel form; is the single most effective therapy for troubling symptoms of menopause. Because ET alone can cause uterine cancer (endometrial cancer), a progestin drug is typically given together with estrogen in women who have a uterus (those who have not undergone a hysterectomy) to eliminate this increased risk. Hormone therapy has been shown to have other risks, including small but still increased risks of stroke and heart disease. Because of these risks, women who have no major menopause symptoms may choose to avoid hormone therapy (HT). Most doctors agree that hormone therapy, when used for symptoms of menopause, should be used in the lowest effective dose and for the shortest time period possible.
Estrogen is also available in cream, ring (vaginal device that secretes estrogen for up to 3 months), or vaginal tablet form for use directly in the vagina. This can help relieve some of the symptoms of vaginal dryness and discomfort. Water-soluble lubricants (such as K-Y jelly, K-Y Silk, liquibeads, etc. ) are also recommended and can be effective for women experiencing symptoms of vaginal dryness.
What are some ways to improve sexual function after menopause?
As discussed above, the use of hormone therapy or vaginal estrogen therapy can improve vaginal dryness and decrease any discomfort associated with sexual intercourse. Water-soluble lubricants can also help overcome vaginal discomfort. Some women find that relaxation techniques, sensual massage, masturbation, or changing sexual positions can heighten their sexual experiences. For women or couples who are struggling to understand and accept the changes in sexual function that may accompany menopause, counseling can be an option. Counseling can be done on an individual basis or together with your partner.
This information is provided by MedicineNet.