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Myths About Sex After 40

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.

Myth 6: It's normal for sex drive to drop as you age.

Truth: Actually, it may be the opposite. "It's more likely for younger women to experience dips in libido," says McGrath, probably thanks to the hormonal upheavals of pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and dealing with young children. So if you have little or no desire for any kind of sex—even with George Clooney in your fantasies—see your doctor to be sure you don't have a medical condition, such as thyroid issues or certain cancers, says Dr. Sebastian. Beyond that, libido has a lot to do with how easily you can talk to your partner, and how bothered either of you is by how often you have sex. For one couple, once a month feels fine, whereas for others three times a week is practically nothing. "Figure out how much sex is enough before you decide you have a libido problem," says McGrath.

Myth 7: Things that once turned you on no longer work because of your age.

Truth: "This is more a fact of a long relationship than aging," says McGrath. You might be bored or in a rut (and so might your man), so address it as soon as possible, advises Dr. Sebastian. Get a video, buy a book, shake things up. Have a whole range of moves in your sexual arsenal because different things turn you on not just in different stages of life but on different days!

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