The loss of estrogen and testosterone following menopause can lead to changes in a woman's body and sexual drive. Menopausal and postmenopausal women may notice that they're not as easily aroused, and they may be less sensitive to touching and stroking. That can lead to less interest in sex.
Also, lower levels of estrogen can cause a drop in blood supply to the vagina. That can affect vaginal lubrication, causing the vagina to be too dry for comfortable sex -- but there's help for that.
When she was 26, Lara Dietz learned she had breast cancer -- a shock to this mother of two very young children. Then came the second blow. When treatment began, so did premature menopause. "I was having hot flashes," she says. "I felt like I was 55 years old."
When menopause occurs between ages 45 to 55, it is considered "natural." When it occurs before age 40 -- regardless the cause -- it is called premature menopause. The ovaries no longer produce an egg each month, so monthly menstrual cycles...
No. Some postmenopausal women say they've got an improved sex drive. That may be due to less anxiety linked to a fear of pregnancy. Also, many postmenopausal women often have fewer child-rearing responsibilities, allowing them to relax and enjoy intimacy with their partners.
What Can I Do to Treat Vaginal Dryness During Menopause?
During and after menopause, vaginal dryness can be treated with water-soluble lubricants such as Astroglide or K-Y Jelly.
Do not use non-water-soluble lubricants such as Vaseline, because they can weaken latex, the material used to make condoms. You or your partner should keep using condoms until your doctor confirms you're no longer ovulating -- and to prevent getting an STD. Non-water-soluble lubricants can also provide a medium for bacterial growth, particularly in a person whose immune system has been weakened by chemotherapy.
Vaginal moisturizers like Replens and Luvena can also be used on a more regular basis to maintain moisture in the vagina. You can also talk to your doctor about vaginal estrogen therapy.
An oral drug taken once a day, Osphena, makes vaginal tissue thicker and less fragile, resulting in less pain for women during sex. The FDA warns that Osphena can thicken the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) and raise the risk of stroke and blood clots.
How Can I Improve My Sex Drive During and After Menopause?
Estrogen replacement may work, but more research is needed. Estrogen can make sex less painful by treating vaginal dryness, though.
Doctors are also studying whether a combo of estrogen and male hormones called androgens may help boost sex drive in women.
Although sexual problems can be hard to discuss, talk to your doctor. There are options to consider, such as counseling. Your doctor may refer you and your partner to a health professional who specializes in sexual dysfunction. The therapist may advise sexual counseling on an individual basis, with your partner, or in a support group. This type of counseling can be very successful, even when it's done on a short-term basis.