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Sexuality and the Menopausal Woman

They don't call it "the change" for nothing. Menopause can mean different symptoms for every woman, but it almost always means changes in the body. These changes vary widely from differences in mood to even changes in sexuality. Many women are blindsided by the latter and are surprised to find that changes in their desire for, attitudes about and enjoyment of sex occur along with everything else.

The Impact of Menopause on Sexuality

Throughout a woman's reproductive years, her body releases hormones, which drive her menstrual cycles and help to regulate the body during pregnancy. When menopause occurs, the body's hormonal needs change greatly, and as a result, women often have lower levels of estrogen and other female hormones in their bodies. The effects of this decrease in hormonal levels are responsible for all of the symptoms of menopause, including those related to a woman's libido, sexual satisfaction and reproductive organs. In addition, the stress, fatigue and mood swings that are common during menopause can also affect a woman's sexual health.

Sexual Health-Related Symptoms

The changes in hormonal levels during menopause can cause a variety of symptoms. Women may have just one symptom, no symptoms at all or many different symptoms. Some of the common to very common sexual challenges that menopause may pose are:

- Marked decrease in libido

- Vaginal dryness that makes intercourse uncomfortable or even painful

- Difficult achieving orgasms or less intense orgasms

- Problems becoming aroused even by foreplay that once was enjoyable

Overcoming the Challenges

The good news for menopausal women is that many of the challenges that come with the change of life fade with time, and there are treatments available to help women cope with symptoms in the meantime. Using personal lubricants can help make sex more enjoyable for both partners when vaginal dryness is a concern. Oral hormone replacement therapy and vaginal estrogen creams can help a woman overcome most of the difficulties that menopause poses where sex is concerned. Counseling or sex therapy has been shown to help women deal with the mental and emotional symptoms that diminish sexual enjoyment.

Women in menopause who are concerned about changes in their sex lives and their reproductive organs should talk to their doctors to find out what types of treatments are available for their symptoms. It's also important to talk to spouses or partners about the changes; open communication can help prevent misunderstandings and resentment that can strain relationships.

 
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