A woman’s life and sexuality holds several milestones: puberty and first periods, pregnancy/ies, and menopauses. These key moments come with major hormonal changes that have an impact on a woman’s sexuality, her sex drive and the way she enjoys sex. Menopause is sometimes dreaded, when in fact, it can be a great opportunity to rediscover one’s body and sexuality.
Menopause, a rite of passage for all women
Etymologically, menopause means “period ending”. This term refers to the time when the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone, the hormones needed for reproduction. When a woman is menopausal, she cannot get pregnant anymore.
This stage can be experienced more or less positively, as it is accompanied by physical and emotional upheavals. In fact, hormonal changes have consequences on the mood and mindset of women: some feel more irritable, have emotional reactions that feel out of character, or feel more tired or more depressed. Menopause also affects the functioning of the body. This can result in hot flashes, night sweats, migraines … It all varies from one woman to the other.
Menopause: an overestimated impact on sexuality
In terms of sex life, the decline in hormone production leads to less immediate sexual reactivity. Women lubricate less quickly and less abundantly, and vaginal contractions triggered by orgasm may be less powerful. But that does not mean that the orgasm itself is less strong: pleasure from sexual intercourse doesn’t go away during and after menopause. Sometimes, it is actually easier to reach climax than it was before, because women tend to know themselves better as they grow older, and have more confidence to ask for and get what they like in bed.
However, menopause has a bad reputation: its impact on sexuality is often described as devastating. While it is true that hormonal disturbance can play an indirect role in the loss of desire, other external factors can influence it to a larger extent: routine, stress, seeing children leaving the house and parents growing older. However, focusing on menopause can prevent us from considering other possible causes to these changes in a woman’s mood and libido.
Reinvent your sexuality!
Faced with all the changes brought about by menopause, the key is to adapt to this new phase of life: it is a moment for a couple to reinvent their sexuality, by enjoying even more foreplay – which facilitates the lubrication – and exploring other erogenous zones, and other sexual practices – always within each partner’s limits, of course.
Finally, a lubricant can really be useful: remember that your vagina registers both positive and negative experiences, and so does your desire. It is therefore important not to let discomfort or pain persist. Do not hesitate to test several lubricants, and to choose a thicker one if necessary.
In your relationship, communication can change everything: tell your partner what you like and what you do not like, and communicate about your feelings. Because basically, whether 50 years or 25 years old, knowledge of our body is key to our sexual fulfilment: the better we know our body and we share it with our partner, the more satisfying our sexuality will be.
If the discomfort grows too strong, or you feel helpless about these changes, turn to your gynecologist who will be able to determine if medication can help. Finally, and because every woman is unique, do not hesitate to consult with a sexologist who will help you find solutions adapted to your personal situation and experience.
Written by Charlotte Creplet, sex therapist at Sexocorner