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“Sex after menopause was so painful but with the right treatment and the right partner it’s now better than ever!”

When Katy*, now 51 and from London, came off the Pill after a break-up she had no idea her body had been going through menopause – and of the impact it would have on her sex life. As told to Andreina Cordani

“For me, sex has never been the be-all and end-all. It’s an important part of a relationship, but the feeling of closeness has always meant more to me than the actual sensation.

Even so, I wasn’t prepared for the impact that the menopause would have on my sex life.

I went through menopause with no symptoms at all. I’d been on the Pill since 18 and at 43, after breaking up with my long-term partner, I decided to come off it to give my body a break. My periods never came back.

I knew it sometimes took time for the body to readjust, so I wasn’t too worried but when I started seeing someone new six months later, I went to my GP to talk about contraception.

She sent me for blood tests and to my shock, the results showed I was way past menopause.

As a life coach, I had plenty of female clients and knew all about the symptoms – the brain fog, the night sweats and mood swings – but I’d had none of those. My body had simply changed without my knowing it.

I was still in a daze of shock when I went to meet my new partner, and I found myself explaining why.

He was supportive, but as I spoke I began to realise that in a matter of hours my whole life had shifted. Yesterday I’d been worried about contraception – now I knew I’d never be able to have a baby.

The relationship fizzled out soon after, and I slowly began to accept what had happened to me. I tried to look on the bright side – with no symptoms, I discussed it with my doctor and we decided that I didn’t need to take HRT. But what I didn’t realise at the time was the impact it would have on sex.

With that first partner I’d experienced some tightness and dryness, although it hadn’t been too bad. But when I started dating and tried again, sex was extremely painful.

It was impossible to pretend otherwise, there was no ‘grinning and bearing it.’ That relationship also didn’t go much further. And so it became part of the process of trying to find the right partner. As soon as things started to get serious, I’d have to explain. I’m the sort of person who has to be nicely into a relationship and strongly attracted to someone before I feel comfortable going beyond hugs and kisses, so having to talk about things like lubricant at an early stage was really hard.

Some potential partners were against the idea of lubricant full stop. In their minds, if I needed it, it meant I wasn’t attracted to them. Those relationships obviously didn’t get as far as the bedroom!

I would try to show I cared in different ways – doing nice things for the man I was seeing, cooking lovely meals, buying little treats. But it felt like I was compensating, the relationship felt uneven.

To be honest I would have been happy not to have sex at all, as my sex drive had vanished too, but I did want intimacy and closeness – a ‘normal’ relationship like the ones I’d had before menopause.

By now I’d been on the dating scene for eight years and was starting to wonder if I’d ever find someone I clicked with.Then in November 2022 I met Andrew* through a dating app. I was attracted to him right from our first date – a low-key drink in my local pub. We get on really well, but we’d only been on a few dates when he had to go abroad for work for eight weeks. I wasn’t sure if I was going to hear from him or not, but two days after he left I got a WhatsApp from him.

We got to know each other over texts for those eight weeks. Without the pressure of sex hanging over us I relaxed, realised that I really liked him and wanted this to work. Which meant I had to tackle my symptoms.

I booked a telephone appointment with my GP, who prescribed vaginal oestrogen. She did warn that it could take several months to kick in though.

When he came back, I explained the situation to him, told him we had to take things slowly. And instead of brushing things away, he immediately asked what he could do to make things easier.

We started off using gel, going slowly, and when the pessaries kicked in things really started to improve. At first the dosage was twice a week but they weren’t effective. My doctor increased my dose and once I started using them every day they worked perfectly. It felt so great to be able to relax and enjoy intimacy again without bracing myself for pain and discomfort.

It wasn’t just about the mechanics, though. I’d never found it easy to talk about sex, but this had forced me out of my comfort zone, to communicate about what felt good for me, what worked and what didn’t. And Andrew listened, responded.

He came up with ideas I’d never thought of – like buying two small, external-use vibrators. I’d never used them before but it helped wake my body up in ways I had never expected, making me want to go further and experiment more.

I wonder now what made me hold back from getting help for so long. I hadn’t felt comfortable confiding in friends, didn’t even think to Google the problem – instead I just locked it away inside. I was facing it alone. Now I have Andrew everything’s changed. We’ve been together eight months and are closer than ever. Thanks to my treatment, but most of all thanks to Andrew, I’m having better sex now than I had before menopause!”

*Names have been changed.

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