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If you’ve noticed your sex drive has plummeted during the menopause, then you’re not alone — research has shown that 40-50% of women experience a loss of sex drive during the menopause transition*. And the menopause specialists in our clinic believe the figure to be higher as many women feel too embarrassed to discuss this symptom.
If you’ve recently found yourself rebuffing your partner’s attempts to initiate intimacy or have noticed your favourite vibrator isn’t getting the attention it once did, you might be wondering what’s going on and how to get your sex drive back during the menopause.
Libido is incredibly complex, and there are a whole host of factors that cause a loss of sex drive in general, such as stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol and too little exercise, to name just a few.
In addition to everyday stresses, throughout the menopause transition, many changes happen within the body that can have an impact both physically and psychologically, so it’s no surprise that our sex drive can take a hit.
A decrease in oestrogen also causes vaginal dryness and reduced vaginal elasticity, resulting in painful sex. If you’ve started to experience vaginal dryness, pain or discomfort during sex, it’s no surprise you’re having trouble getting in the mood! It’s essential to explore treatment options as soon as possible to get on top of menopause symptoms swiftly. This helps prevent what can easily turn into a vicious circle of more pain and anxiety, which can develop into vaginismus.
It can also be harder to come to orgasm because the thin tissue of the vulva and vagina becomes more delicate and can lose some sensitivity, so you may find yourself getting frustrated or anxious about not being able to orgasm.
Safe to say, it’s tricky trying to feel sexy if you’re experiencing hot flushes and night sweats. Many women also experience weight gain during the menopause, making them feel less attractive and affecting their confidence.
Life events and stress can also have their impact: juggling ageing parents, children/teenagers, and work may not leave much time or energy for yourself or your relationship.
If you’ve ever flown off the handle at your partner for eating the last bar of chocolate, or you’ve burst into tears as you stood in front of your entire wardrobe because nothing looks good on you, you’ll be familiar with the impact fluctuating hormone levels can have on mood. Throughout the menopause, a loss of oestrogen in the body affects the brain, which can cause a decrease in pleasure and desire and increased anxiety, depression, feelings of low mood and low motivation – the perfect mood-killer cocktail!
So, there’s a lot going on — and although it’s not uncommon for women to lose interest in sex and pleasure during the menopause, many find that once they reboot their sex life (sometimes with a helping hand from lubricants and sex toys), they enjoy it – and lots of it!
To find out the best ways to increase sex drive and how to reignite the spark with a partner, we spoke to Counsellor and Sex Therapist Sue Makin. Here are Sue’s top tips:
Due to societal and cultural expectations, some women find themselves in a ‘pleaser’ role, which places their wants and needs behind that of others. This can often translate into sexual relationships and leave us feeling unable to ask for what we really want.
If how you experience pleasure has changed, take some time to explore your body and relearn what feels good. We are not one dimensional, nor are our partners. We need time to explore parts of ourselves, psychologically and physically. What we wanted when we were in our 20s will be very different now. Our relationships are different to how they were when we first met our partners. If the time is right to think about having new relationships, looking at all parts of yourself will help you understand what you want to offer to another and receive. Pleasing yourself and knowing how to is a great gift to give to another when being intimate. Take a look at omgyes.com for some tips; it’s an excellent resource focussed on helping women have their best sex.
Couples I see are often both experiencing problems. For example, if a woman is experiencing pain during sex, their partner may be having erection problems or pre-ejaculation issues out of fear of hurting them.
If you’re struggling to reach orgasm through penetration alone, how about suggesting using a clitoral vibrator together? The menopause is an exciting time to reset and be optimistic about what could come next for us sexually. And by having those conversations, you can start to move forward and find a solution to make sex enjoyable again.
Know that your wants and desires are valid, and find a way to open up a conversation with your partner. An expert can help you do this.
We all give and receive love differently, and relationships can only be enhanced by understanding each other better. You might be someone who loves physical touch, or you feel most loved when someone offers a helping hand. If you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, you might think you have a good idea of what each other likes, which may be true, but there’s always more to learn. The important thing is you are giving yourself this opportunity to reassess your knowledge about yourself and rethink what your new wants and needs are. Intimacy is important for us psychologically, and sex isn’t one dimensional; penetrative sex isn’t always what we want, and that is okay. You might like to take a look at the five love languages and take the quiz.
You may be reading this piece looking for something – you might not know what is missing, other than something is not quite right. If sex is part of that something that isn’t right, by seeking relationship counselling or sex therapy you can explore that sex is more than intercourse – you know this already I am sure, but we will help you explore all the other parts of intimacy: desire, arousal, self-pleasure, and loving the new you. What is important is defining what good sex is for you and your partner if you have one. The opportunity is to find out what your conditions are for great sex, whatever sex is for you.
You may have been in a relationship for a long time or, between work-life commitments, looking after the kids, or taking care of parents, the romance has fallen by the wayside.
If you’re in a relationship and feel the fun and flirting has fizzled out, or you’re in a sex rut, it could be time to open a conversation with your partner about how to reintroduce intimacy.
It can be awkward talking about sex – even with the person you’re closest to – so think about what you’d like to discuss and jot down some notes beforehand to help you feel prepared. Try asking your partner what they want from sex and intimacy, but also make sure your desires are listened to and addressed too.
I work with many couples to open up the conversation about sex and help them find a different way to connect or learn how to hold each other differently. All of these things can add up to making a big difference in helping both partners feel satisfied in the relationship.
A simple tip to make it easier to initiate sex is to go to bed at the same time – earlier than you both typically would – that way, you don’t have to worry about feeling tired the next day. As you start to reintroduce touch and sex, try not to focus on orgasm or penetrative sex and instead focus on touch and exploring each other’s bodies. Take your time and go at a pace you feel comfortable with.
Beyond the bedroom, try spending more quality time together. When was the last time you went on a date? Kids, work, looking after parents, and other commitments can easily get in the way of romance, but investing time in each other can help you reconnect and get that spark back.
For too long, many women have felt they ‘just have to get on with it’ when it comes to the menopause. Thankfully, attitudes are changing, and more and more women are realising the value of seeking help from a range of specialists.
If you’ve already approached your GP and feel you need further support for physical symptoms, booking a consultation with a menopause specialist gives you a personalised treatment plan to help you get back to feeling like yourself.
You may be experiencing relationship issues or psychosexual problems that you’d like to address with an expert (alone or with your partner) and feel you’d benefit from seeing a counsellor or therapist. You can learn more about how Sue works here.
Although a lot is going on throughout the menopause, we can be optimistic that change is possible.
For further reading on sex and the menopause, Sue recommends the following books:
Whether you want to discuss your symptoms, create a treatment plan that's right for you, understand some test results or have a check-up, the highly experienced doctors and nurses in our menopause clinic are here to help you.Book now