Know that old song, "Where Did Our Love Go?" Many women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s are asking, "Where did our sex go?" Loss of desire is common among women in the years before and after menopause. Desire problems peak between ages 35 to 64.
Hormones don't deserve all the blame, though. The causes of lost sex drive are complex. Here are some of the top factors behind "hypoactive sexual desire disorder," and what can be done.
Men don't like to talk about it; neither do their partners. But loss of libido in men or inhibited sexual desire stresses a marriage more than any other sexual dysfunction, according to Barry McCarthy, co-author of Rekindling Desire: A Step by Step Program to Help Low-Sex and No-Sex Marriages.
Losing interest in sex may not be as common an occurrence for men as it is for women: It affects about 15% to 16% of men, and at least double that many women. "But when men lose interest in sex it scares them...
Before menopause, your sex drive peaked just before and after you ovulated. But when your periods stop, estrogen dips, and those revved-up days in your cycle are gone.
Menopausal women may respond less to touch, too, and find it harder to get aroused. Less estrogen also means less blood flow to the vagina, and more dryness. So when you do have sex, it can hurt. Who wants sex that feels bad?
What helps: First, stop the pain. Try over-the-counter water-based lubricants. Ask your doctor about prescription medications to fight dryness: There are oral drugs available, as well as vaginal creams, which have fewer side effects than oral hormones.
At midlife, many women are deep into a marriage, a job, raising teens, and caregiving. Any of these can amp up stress, and stress puts your sex drive in park. Avoiding sex can, in turn, cause tension with your partner. Low desire is more common in long-term relationships. Because all this happens at once, it may seem like menopause is the cause, but there are many factors.
What helps: Take the focus off intercourse. Spend more time on foreplay and try other kinds of sex play, such as massage and oral sex. Seek out short-term couples counseling when your sex life hits a rough patch.