Sex Appeal in Menopause
Human beings are sexual beings, and sex is important to most midlife women.
Research indicates that 75% of midlife women consider sex moderately or extremely important to them. Understanding common changes that occur during perimenopause and menopause helps women to know if the changes they notice are normal or not.
It is not unusual for women 20 months prior to menopause to experience less desire and engage in sex less frequently. But this doesn’t mean they give up having pleasurable sex. One-third of women over the age of 65 remain sexually active. The low supply of estrogen in menopause can cause sex to become uncomfortable or even painful for some women. The vagina becomes less elastic, less lubricated, and more prone to irritation, dryness, and tearing. The vagina can shrink slightly and shorten in length in some women. Less desire or pain can also contribute to less lubrication, which may cause more discomfort, and a vicious cycle follows.
The good news is that this is all treatable!
Following discussion with their doctor, some may choose to apply prescription estrogen locally to the vagina, which is safe for most women. Ingesting a pill of estrogen travels throughout the body, but estrogen applied to the vagina stays in the vaginal tissue. Even women with a history of cancer can often safely use vaginal estrogen, but they need to first discuss this option with their oncologist. Vaginal estrogen is a low-dose estrogen and typically needs to be used for a couple of months before the benefits are noticed. Women need to be patient in allowing the body to absorb enough estrogen overtime before determining its effectiveness.
Another beneficial treatment for painful intercourse is pelvic health physical therapy. Physical therapists who undergo post-graduate training in pelvic health are specialists in helping the pelvic floor muscles relax for pain-free intercourse. They also specialize in treating bladder and bowel conditions. If interested in finding a pelvic health-trained physical therapist near you, visit the American Physical Therapy Association’s Academy of Pelvic Health website.
Most menopause-related pain can be lessened or eliminated, so don’t hesitate to seek help if you experience sexual pain. Reach out to your gynecologist or family doctor and ask if Pelvic Physical Therapy might be right for you. These medical experts can help you understand at-home remedies, lifestyle changes, and medical treatments to alleviate your problems. Sexual pain can be complex. Discussing your concerns can make a huge difference. These qualified experts are trained to guide your journey toward resuming or maintaining an active sex life.