“Your generation did not invent sex!” is a common phrase that parents have been using to remind their children and teenagers especially when they are out of order with their sexual behavior. It is comforting for every midlife women to know “your generation did not invent menopause and sex!” there have been women before you and you definitely will not be the last one to experience the sexual side effects of menopause.
This is not meant to diminish the intensity and criticalness of the sexual side effects of menopause. As a matter of fact, research has found out that close to a third of women in the US are concerned that they do not find sex pleasurable anymore and that they no longer reach orgasm. While it is true that you are not the first one to undergo these changes, the truth is that there are those who had the challenges but took the time to handle them properly and so they have an inspiring story. There are however others who bore the brunt of the sexual side effects with some ending in separations and divorces as they couldn’t handle it as a couple. This article aims at equipping you with the necessary facts and information so that you are better placed to handle the sexual side effects in a victorious way so that you are not the victim but the victor together with your spouse; you can still enjoy your menopausal years even with the sexual side effects.
Hormonal changes and sexual side effects of menopause
During the period leading up to menopause, there are a lot of changes that take place in woman’s body. The body’s production of reproductive hormones like estrogen, testosterone and progesterone starts to decline and fluctuate; this is the major source of sexual problems in women.
Estrogen is the primary female reproductive hormone. Estrogen plays a critical role in the general well-being of woman and specifically ensures that the vagina is moist, well supplied with blood and that it is elastic and stretchy.
During menopause, the amounts of estrogen produced by the body fluctuate with a general declining trend; this wrecks havoc in a woman’s sexual life. The absence of estrogen would translate to less blood supply to the vagina, less elasticity and stretching of the vaginal walls and lining and also means a dry vagina. This would cause the vulva tissues to be thinner, drier and less elastic, a condition that is known as vulvovaginal atrophy. This condition is also enhanced by the less lubrication supplied to the vagina and an increased pH in the vagina and therefore, the vagina is less acidic just as it were at puberty. Most women at this stage would opt not to have regular sex; unfortunately, less regular sex would have the vagina shorter and narrower. When such a woman eventually tries to have intercourse, she is bound to experience pain because the vagina and vulva are dry, thinner and less elastic.
There is bound to be some tearing that would lead to bleeding during intercourse and whenever there is an attempt for penetration. This would affect her desire for sex as she associates sex with pain. It is preferable that a woman continues to have regular sex even during the menopausal time because it will help keep the vagina moist, elastic, and have it thick and long. This way a woman will continue to have pleasure during sexual intercourse.
Apart from these direct effects on the vagina, a reduction in the amounts of estrogen could indirectly affect the sexual life of a woman. Low estrogen leads to such menopausal symptoms as hot flashes, anxiety, stress, urinary incontinence and night sweats. This more often than not drains a woman’s energy leaving her with very little sexual desire and sex drive.
Solutions sexual side effects during menopause
There are many menopause treatment and remedies for sexual side effects during the menopausal period.
Discuss with your partner and health provider
Sexual side effects of menopause definitely affect the sexual relationship of a woman. Many women shy away from discussing sexual problems in women but it is important that a woman takes time to discuss these effects with her partner and with her doctor. Your sexual partner is better placed to understand what you are going through and to support you through menopause if you share with them what you are going through; it builds trust between the two of you. You could together then approach your doctor who could give professional advice on how to combat the sexual effects of menopause in a healthy manner.
Lifestyle changes are usually cheap and easy to implement. They include eating foods that can boost estrogen activity in the body like soy and eating balanced diets of healthy foods. It is important to take lots of water and engage in regular exercises like kegel and any other exercise that would promote the flow of blood. Having regular sex is good as mentioned above.
Avoiding alcohol, cigar and caffeinated drinks could also help keep you fit.
Alternative medicine and supplements
Alternative medicine and menopause supplements are a safe way of treating menopausal symptoms; they are now generally accepted among menopausal women for treating menopause symptoms like sexual side effects
Use of lubricants and moisturizers
Water based lubricants and moisturizers can help a lot when one wants to have intercourse, but the vagina is dry. Ensure that your choice does not cause any further challenge.
Hormone treatment seeks to restore estrogen levels in the body by supplying estrogen through the various forms of treatments. This, however, needs to be weighed to find out if the risks outweigh the benefits before it is administered.