One study found 88% of menopausal women experienced sex drive issues.
If you’re currently Googling “menopause sex drive”, chances are you’re going through perimenopause or the menopause itself and have noticed a change in how frequently you’re turned on.
Did you know? The menopause can lead to a loss of estrogen, which, in turn, can affect your sex drive and sometimes cause vaginal dryness (read our round up of the best lubes, here).
Similarly, some people start experiencing painful sex when they do through the menopause while others see their sex drive increase.
In short, it’s a total mixed bag, but you’ll likely experience a shift in libido of some form when you go through the menopause. One study found that, while 42% of women that experienced sexual dysfunction in the early perimenopausal stage, double that – 88% of women – faced the same problem eight years later. “While the nature and severity of sexual dysfunction can vary from person to person, this highlights how common of a problem it can be and the importance of breaking the stigmas around it,” shares Isabelle Uren, a Bedbible sex expert with an academic background in psychology.
But know this: just because you’re going through the menopause, doesn’t mean you should stop enjoying sex, shares the expert.
Here, she explains why. Oh, and don’t miss our guides to hormone replacement therapy, menopause yoga and the menstrual cycle phases, while you’re here.
First things first, know this: there are a number of reasons menopausal people may experience problems having sex.
“Often there are multiple factors at play,” explains Uren. “First of all, decreased levels of estrogen can lead lead to a lower sex drive and cause the vaginal tissues to become more fragile and easily irritated.”
There are also the other physical and emotional effects of menopause that can impact sex drive, such as changes in mood, lack of sleep, and low self-esteem, the expert explains.
In other words, if you really don’t fancy it, give it a miss, but also, make sure you give yourself more time to become aroused. “There are plenty of ways to increase arousal, including physical touch, reading erotic fiction, listening to erotic audio stories, or watching feminist, ethical porn. Use this time to rediscover what turns you on,” advises Uren. Our guide to how to be intimate might help.
As above, if your menopausal symptoms mean you’re experiencing vaginal dryness, Uren advises using some water-based lubrication to help.
“Unsure what to look for? Your doctor will be able to help you,” she shares.
Yep, you read that right. Her advice? “Make masturbation and sex part of your self-care routine,” she advises. “As well as helping you figure out what feels good, it can help improve mood, reduce anxiety and improve blood flow to your vulva — a definite win, win.”
Don’t miss our guide to free self care ideas, while you’re here.
Again, another simple way of boosting your sex drive while going through the menopause? Accepting that sex toys are your friend (our guide to the best sex toy advent calendars might make things more fun).
“Decreased blood flow can make your vulva less sensitive, so finding a good vibrator can help you get the level of stimulation you need, plus the vibrations can also increase blood flow,” she shares.
Her top picks? “Either a silicone clitoral stimulator or a clitoral suction vibrator. One of the benefits of clitoral suction vibrators is that they provide powerful but indirect stimulation, making them great for people who find direct contact with the clitoris uncomfortable,” she explains.
If you have a partner, try to have ongoing, open discussions about your sex life, she encourages.
“While this can feel awkward at first, telling your partner how you like to be touched can lead to more enjoyable and fulfilling sex for you both,” she recommends.
Our guide to how to talk about a fetish could come in handy.
Ever heard of it? We’re talking about pillows, wedges and even stools.
“Getting some added support from sex furniture – because changes due to menopause or general ageing don’t mean you have to give up your favourite sex positions,” she explains.
Opt for sex pillows, wedges, stools, or even chaises. “These can all give you the added support you need to feel comfortable and allow you to relax and enjoy the moment,” she shares.
This one’s important. Isabelle shares that it’s common for menopausal people to feel slightly worried or anxious about how their new bodily reactions will handle sexual pleasure.
She recommends taking it slowly and not rushing your body.
Again, simple but key for building back up that sex drive. “Vagina function as the body goes through the menopause sees elasticity decrease and the lining thin and dry out, which leads to fragile tissues tearing more easily,” she explains.
If you are keen to give things a go, just remember to take things slowly and build up gradually. If you’re keen to use for sex toys having never used them before, she advises using a dilator kit – “it’s a great way to help yourself build up your tolerance to things being inside of you. They aren’t as sexy as your usual kit, but they help to reduce anxiety and can reaffirm to you that your body isn’t broken – it just needs more care,” she shares.
And finally, she stresses that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to changes in sexual function due to menopause. “While it can feel awkward or embarrassing to talk about the sexual impact of menopause, it is important to remember that it is a common health issue, and there are things you can do to improve your symptoms,” she shares.
Bottom line: your sexual health plays a significant role in your overall health and wellbeing, and talking openly about your symptoms with your doctor or partner can help you figure out what will work for you.