Coaxing Back Desire After Menopause
In my practice, I hear my patients talk about a wide range of menopause-related struggles. Some of the stories I find most affecting are the ones related to loss of desire, which about half of women over age 40 experience. The women are just so sad—and rightly so. It's a cruel irony that at the exact moment children leave the nest and you have time and privacy to devote to sex, desire disappears.
Some women honestly don't mind, and there's nothing wrong with just letting sex go (although your partner might not agree, and you'll be foregoing all the health benefits!). Others feel the loss keenly. They are stunned by their sudden inability to access the feeling that has always been an easy path to connectedness. Oh, the things we take for granted in our youth!
There are a few names for this condition: hypoactive sexual desire disorder or hypoactive sexual interest and arousal disorder. How do you know if you have it? If you are unsatisfied with how often you consider or pursue sex, and there's no medical reason you don't consider or pursue it, then you have it.
If it bothers you, if you're like my patients who ask, "Isn't there something I can do?" then keep reading. Although companies are continually trying to create a drug that will enhance desire (Vyleesi is a recent entry on the market, and we'll post about it soon), there isn't a silver bullet yet like there is for men, who can take Viagra or a number of alternatives. Desire in women is the result of a complex balance of physical, psychological and social influences. (If you haven't come across it yet, now's a good time to read the MiddlesexMD Recipe for Sexual Health.)
While there isn't an easy answer, there are numerous things you can try, which you can explore from this page on our website. Look in the right-hand column for possible underlying causes, and follow the links to actions you can take.
If nothing you see works for you, talk to your medical professional. Desire is well worth working to hang onto!
Barb DePree, MD, has been a gynecologist for 30 years, specializing in menopause care for the past 10. Dr. DePree was named the Certified Menopause Practitioner of the Year in 2013 by the North American Menopause Society. The award particularly recognized the outreach, communication and education she does through MiddlesexMD, a website she founded and where this blog first appeared. She also is director of the Women's Midlife Services at Holland Hospital, Holland, Michigan.