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Sex, Aging, and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Is it possible to maintain intimacy and a good sex life through RA and menopause? Yes. Here’s how.

Not Tonight, Honey. I’ve Got Joint Pain.

Swollen and painful joints can put a damper on having sex, and menopause and aging can increase joint pain and stiffness in some women. “For women who have relatively severe disease, finding a comfortable position for intercourse may be challenging,” says Wei. “In some instances, when pain is especially severe, a woman may not even feel like having intercourse.”

Russell suggests that you and your partner visit your rheumatologist together to discuss changes in intimacy caused by RA and menopause. “It’s important for both people in the relationship to know that just as it may be difficult to, say, vacuum with RA, it can be difficult to have sex,” she says.

If you’ve had a long relationship with your rheumatologist, you’re probably comfortable enough to bring it up. But if you’d rather talk about sex with someone else, “Tell your doctor that you’d like a referral to someone you can talk to about how to handle your disease with respect to your marriage or relationships,” Russell suggests.

Talking to a professional can also open up discussion between you and your partner. Discussing sex openly is critical, experts say. It gives you both a chance to air your fears and feelings, and can make your relationship stronger.

There are also some strategies you can try to make intimacy more pleasurable.

Tips for Reducing Pain During Sex

New positions and methods of stimulation can ease pain and may wake up a tired sex life, too. To ease pain during intercourse, try kneeling on a pillow with your upper body resting on a chair, and your partner entering from behind. Lying on your side may also work well for some couples.

Try new forms of stimulation to get things going. A warm bath or shower together can be sensual and soothing. Massage, fondling, and stroking may get you in the mood if you find it difficult to get aroused. So can sexual fantasies. For some women, that may even be enough sometimes, and you can bring your partner to a climax in other ways.

Planning for sex is a popular strategy for people with RA. It lets you pursue intimacy during a time of day when you’re generally free of pain and fatigue. You can also schedule your pain-relief medication so it kicks in then.

Strategies such as these may make intimacy more pleasurable. And in turn, enjoying sex can take you out of your RA pain.

Reducing Fatigue

Menopause can increase fatigue, which you may already be feeling thanks to your rheumatoid arthritis. If that’s the case, the only thing you may want to do in bed is sleep. Menopause can also lead to insomnia, another problem for some women with RA.

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