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Tracey, 60, is one of the world’s leading writers on sex and relationships. She’s written 18 books including her latest release ‘Great Sex Starts at 50’ and is co-host of the honest and hilarious SexTok podcast. She lives in London with her husband Miles.
It gave me something new to write about! After writing 17 books about sex and relationships, I was seriously thinking, ‘What else can I say?” Then I turned 50 and thought, ‘Whoa! What’s going on!’. I knew things happen to women sexually post 50 – I’ve spent my life talking about sex – I just never thought any of the negatives would happen to me! Surely with that many books under my belt, a lifetime of talking and researching sex and being blessed with a lively libido would shield me from any horribleness ahead? Alas, being a ‘sexpert’ doesn’t stop you from going through the menopause (damn!) or having to wrestle with other midlife issues. But it did lead to me writing, ‘Great Sex Starts at 50’ and it was one of the most enjoyable books of all to write because I got to talk to so many women about their experiences.
My sex drive plummeted. I used to cut my arms off to get sex pre-50. Post 50, I wouldn’t lope off a little toe! My nerve endings went numb and my orgasms went from being powerful, mind-altering experiences to little ‘bleeps’ that hardly registered. Sex became painful because of vaginal dryness. It’s all fixed now (thank God for oestrogen pessaries and vaginal moisturiser) but, psychologically, I still find penetration difficult. Happily, my husband and I are very happy to shift the focus to more oral based sex and the upshot is, I actually have more orgasms now than I did before. But it really does take its toll on your sex life. I did find the answers to most of the issues (and the book reveals everything that helped me) but it wasn’t easy.
Mine was being told what I was suffering from. I thought I’d just turned into a grumpy, horrible person. I vividly remember doing some grocery shopping while perimenopausal (and not knowing I was), and a little old lady was in front of me, dithering around and moving at a snail’s pace. I had about five minutes to do an hour’s worth of shopping. I smiled patiently as she peered at a packet of flour for what seemed like hours, blocking my way with her trolley. Finally, she moved. Then stopped again. The rage I felt was instant and nuclear.
I am a nice woman, not generally given to feeling like running trollies up the back of little old ladies’ ankles. But during perimenopause I was an angry, hot, frothy mess of irritableness. My friends were scared of me. I was scared of me. My best friend, also perimenopausal then menopausal, calmly suggested I go to see if that was happening to me. My body went limp with relief when the doctor confirmed it was menopause. It was certainly preferable to the alternative: I was just an awful person.
My friend, by the way, went through the whole thing without raising an eyebrow, her voice or a sweat. The only thing she noticed was that her periods faltered then stopped. I hated her. A part of me still does (OK a teensy part, but still). The thing is the menopause is debilitating for lots of women. For others, she’s like a slightly annoying child, pulling at your skirts when you could do without being disturbed. Everyone experiences it differently, albeit with commonalities.
Yoga. It’s something I used to poo-poo because I love hard, intense exercise. Now I can’t get through the day without stretching. The other thing that saves me is walking in a park. I crave the connection to nature and find fresh air such a savour (the rest of the time I’m sitting inside in front of a computer!).
I take HRT: progesterone (which rescued my sleep), oestrogen gel (which solved the vaginal dryness problem) and found the hot flushes stopped immediately. Talking to friends about it also helps immeasurably. We’re so much better now. When I publicised my book (during the pandemic), I clocked up more than 60 hours of podcast and radio interviews about sex post 50 and the menopause. It used to be a word that was whispered and rarely talked about. Now, it’s a conversation the world is having.
A glass of wine at the end of the day. I’m pretty healthy otherwise and you have to have one vice. (Ok, it might be more than one but who’s counting!)
Great Sex Starts at 50: How to age-proof your libido (£12.99, Murdoch Books) is available from all online retailers and at all good bookshops. It is also available in eBook.
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