What about sex and menopause?

What about sex and menopause?

Some, but by no means all, women experience a decrease in sexual desire during menopause.

Reduced hormone levels cause subtle changes in the genital tissues and are thought to be linked to a decline in sexual interest. Lower oestrogen levels decrease the blood supply to the vagina and the nerves and glands surrounding it. This makes delicate tissues thinner, drier and less able to produce secretions to comfortably lubricate before and during intercourse. This problem can be effectively treated and means that sex need not be avoided.

Changes in hormone production are cited as the major reason for changes in sexual behaviour, but there are many other interpersonal, psychological and cultural factors. Some women may use menopause as an excuse to stop sex completely after years of low interest, while others actually feel liberated from the worry of pregnancy and report an increased interest in sex.

Birth control is a confusing issue for women around the time of the menopause. Doctors advise all women who have menstruated, even if irregularly, within the past year to continue using birth control. Hormone-based oral and implantable contraceptives are risky in older women who smoke. Other options include barrier methods (diaphragms, condoms, and sponges), the coil (intrauterine contraceptive device) or irreversible methods, either male or female sterilization (vasectomy or tubal ligation).

Men, too, have doubts about sex in middle age and often report a decline in sexual activity after the age of 50. It may take more time to reach ejaculation or they may not be able to reach it at all. Many fear they will fail sexually as they get older.

Sexual problems can arise at any age, but if you and your partner are well informed about normal genital changes, you can be more understanding and make allowances rather than demands.

Be open and honest with each other and you could enjoy a successful sex life well into your 70s and 80s!

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