I've said it before and I'll say it again: Sex after menopause can be challenging. That's behind many of the conversations I have in my medical practice and a major motivation for the conversations on this website.
You may have thought your sex life would actually improve as you aged. After all, the kids are moved out (or more independent), you're likely in a better financial position, and no more periods means no worries about pregnancy.
And you may be encountering the reality that now you're in the throes of perimenopause or menopause, your sex life isn't quite what you imagined. You're not alone.
I spend a lot of time discussing obstacles to sex during menopause faced by women like you. As you read through the list below, see if you identify with some or all of them. You may find that you have a lot of company on the road you thought you were traveling alone.
Loss of interest in sex. It's important to know there's nothing unusual if you have little (or no) interest in sex. Your body is going through significant changes during menopause, and one of those changes is a loss of estrogen. As a result, sexual function often decreases drastically, affecting libido and making arousal difficult.
Stress and fatigue. I lump these together because they often go hand in hand. All the physical and emotional changes of menopause can make you feel especially tired, and night sweats can make it impossible to get a good night's sleep. What happens next? Your stress level rises because you're tired. It's a vicious cycle—one that can leave you less interested in sex.
Body image issues. Weight gain during menopause is common. If this is something you're experiencing, you may not be feeling as sexy as you once did. Your partner may be telling you that you're beautiful, but that's not what you see when you look in the mirror. Feeling less sexy can also make you feel depressed or anxious and unable to enjoy sex.
Boredom in the bedroom. It's hard enough to get aroused with all the menopause changes stacked against you. Throw in the same old routine in the bedroom, and your chances of having a night of passion are probably not great.
If you can relate to any or all of these, be assured there are others who have shared your experience and have sought ways to surmount each obstacle. Don't be afraid to talk to your partner and be honest about how you're feeling.
Use this website or print pages from it to prompt discussion. If you feel like your symptoms are more than you can address on your own, make an appointment with your health care provider to investigate solutions.
The best time to work on the challenges of sex during menopause is now. You have years of great sex ahead of you; don't waste time trying to figure it out alone.
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.