Myths About Sex After 40
Myth 3: Your body isn't sexual once you enter perimenopause.
Truth: The changes that occur in the (sometimes) years before menopause, such as irregular periods, mood changes and lack of vaginal lubrication will affect your sex life. But a changing body is still a sexual body, says Dr. Sebastian, and recognizing that is important. Avoiding sexual activity may only worsen things. Take dryness: Using a lubricant such as KY Jelly helps, but so does the act of having sex: "When blood goes to the genitals, the tissues remain healthy," encouraging natural lubrication. Hot flashes and fatigue associated with perimenopause can wreak havoc on your energy levels, says McGrath, so talk to your doctor about possible hormonal remedies. And look on the bright side: This can be a time of experimentation and freedom with sex that you didn't have when young kids were underfoot. "Introduce a vibrator, experiment with self-stimulation, try new positions," suggests McGrath.
Myth 4: You're too tired for sex.
Truth: This one persists for good reason—it makes sense that you'd be more worn-out now than you were 20 years ago. But it's more likely that "I'm too tired" is an excuse to avoid sex. Being chronically out of energy can trigger a sex drive dip, so ask your doctor to check your thyroid levels and test you for anemia, says McGrath. And look at your lifestyle: Maybe you need to pare down your commitments and get better sleep by regulating your bedtime and removing un-sexy (and rest-interfering) TVs and computers from your bedroom. Other than that, "don't wait to have sex until the end of the day when you're exhausted," says Dr. Sebastian. If you're a morning person, try a little wake-up nookie, or if possible, a bit of afternoon delight.
Myth 5: You don't have to worry about birth control.
Truth: Tell that to the legion of late-life moms toting their beloved "oops" babies! "It's hard to know exactly when you'll stop ovulating, even if you're in the middle of perimenopause," says Dr. Sebastian. "To check when you can skip protection, your doctor can do a blood test." The level of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in your blood can reveal whether you're still fertile, but levels fluctuate during perimenopause, so even a low FSH level may be misleading. That's why it's better to be safe than sorry. Menopause isn't official until you've gone a full year without a period, says McGrath. In a new relationship? You still have to protect against sexually transmitted diseases, so use condoms until you're sure about your partner's past.