Starting in peri-menopause, some women experience a gradual decline in sexual desire (libido). For others, sex becomes uncomfortable as they reach menopause. This could be the result of physical changes such as vaginal dryness or low self-perception.
If you can relate, these tips from Catriona Boffard, London-based sexologist, cognitive-behavioural therapist, sex researcher, educator and author may help.
1. Use a silicone-based lubricant. As you age, the lining on the walls of the vagina thins and you might need a little help with physical arousal. Silicone lubricants last a lot longer and feel much more natural than water-based lubricants. Never use oil-based products (except coconut oil) as these can lead to vaginal infection.
2. Try shifting your focus from penetrative, performance-based sex to pleasure-focused sex. Focus on kissing, touching and exploring each other’s bodies rather than just on sexual intercourse. When you’re so focused on what should happen, you may feel pressurised and the sex will suffer. Focus on just enjoying what you feel, rather than having too many expectations.
3. Try different positions. Post-menopause sex might be a little different to the sex you enjoyed before menopause. Try gentle positions like the coital-alignment technique, or a position that places you on top. The good news is that if you had a good sex life before menopause, you’re likely to continue having a good sex life post-menopause.
4. Use fantasy as much as possible. Your brain is your biggest sex organ. Thinking about what turns you on will not only help intensify your sexual experience but will arouse you much more, leading to better sex.
5. Work on your body image and self-love first and foremost. When they go through menopause, many women report that they don’t feel sexy anymore. Take steps to counter this, like buying sexy lingerie or asking your partner to compliment you more. These simple things can help you feel sexier and increase your desire for sex. In turn, sex shouldn’t hurt, as your mind and body will take part in the journey.
6. Do your Kegels. When you get older, the strength of your pelvic-floor muscles decreases. This can lead to painful sex, “not feeling anything” during sex, and even urinary incontinence. Make sure you’re doing your Kegel exercises, or take up Pilates or yoga classes to give this muscle group a workout as often as possible.
7. Explore your own body more. Because, as every sex therapist will tell you, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it! Touching yourself and exploring what works for you has many health benefits, including helping you to de-stress, increasing blood flow to your genitals (which is imperative for healthy sexual functioning) and improving orgasmic response and intensity.
8. Some women find that their sex drive decreases. For others, it increases. If you fall in the former category, it’s important to determine how long this has been the case. If it’s been longer than six months post-menopause, seek help from a sexologist or sexual health physician. It could be related to medication, body image or the change in your hormones that happens during this period of life.
9. If painful intercourse persists, reach out for help. It’s not normal for you to be in pain, and the problem could be very simple to treat. Contact an accredited, registered sexologist or a doctor who specialises in sexual health.