The phase of menopause in a woman’s life comes with many changes. The loss of testosterone and estrogen following menopause bring about many such changes – to both a woman’s body as well as their sexual drive. Menopausal and post-menopausal women may start to notice that their sex drive, or libido, is changing. While some women find themselves having an increased libido, others may experience a decrease in their sex drive. Not all women experience the same changes in libido, though it is a very common change after menopause. But does menopause affect your libido or are their other factors at play here? Let’s take a look.
How Does Menopause Affect Your Libido?
As a woman goes through menopause, they may start to notice changes in their sex drive or libido. While some women experience an increase in their desire to have sex, others may see a dramatic decrease in their sex drive. (1) While, of course, not all women experience a reduction in their desire to have sex, but it is a reasonably common experience while going through menopause, or after menopause. In most cases, a lower libido during menopause is usually because of a decrease in the hormone levels. (2)
A reduction in hormone levels is known to cause vaginal tightness and dryness, which are two of the leading reasons behind painful sex during menopause. Some of the other symptoms of menopause can also decrease your interest in sex, including:
In some women, menopause has a negative impact on their libido in many ways. During this phase in a woman’s life, the estrogen and testosterone levels both fall, making it difficult for a woman to feel aroused. (3)
A reduction in the levels of estrogen can also cause vaginal dryness. The fall in estrogen levels leads to a decrease in blood supply to the vagina. This negatively affects the lubrication of the vagina and can also cause thinning of the vaginal wall. This condition is known as vaginal atrophy. (4) Vaginal atrophy and dryness are two of the leading reasons for discomfort and pain during sex. (5)
At the same time, there are also other physical; changes that are occurring during menopause which may also be responsible for a lowered libido.
For example, during menopause, many women gain weight. Discomfort with this new bodyweight and how the body now loos often decreases the desire for sex. Night sweats and hot flashes are also some of the other common problems women experience during menopause, and these symptoms end up leaving you feeling too tired for having sex. Even mood symptoms such as irritability and depression have a role to play in turning you off from sex.
If you are going through a period of low sex drive, then there are many ways by which you can increase your libido with the help of sex aids such as lubricants, and with lifestyle changes. If you don’t find relief with these at-home remedies, then your doctor can also help you find the right treatment.
Consult Your Doctor
If you are going through menopause and you start to notice a decrease in your libido, then consulting your doctor will help determine the underlying caus behind these changes. Your doctor will accordingly suggest treatments that may help your condition. These may include:
- Home remedies
- Over-the-counter (OTC) medications
- Prescription medications
Depending on the reason why your libido has gone down, your doctor may even refer you to another professional for treatment. For example, if there is no physical cause behind your decreased libido, then they might send you to a sex therapist. Or maybe even a marriage counselor if you and your partner want to improve your relationship and need some outside help and insight.
When it comes to talking to your doctor about sex issues, most people feel uncomfortable. However, it is necessary to remember that it is the job of a doctor to take care of all the aspects of your health, including your sex life, and that too without being judgmental.
Treatment For Libido Changes Due to Menopause
There are many treatment options available for treating libido changes that happen due to menopause. Let us go through some of these.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is one of the more common treatment techniques for addressing the underlying hormonal changes. (6) Estrogen pills are prescribed for reducing vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy. However, there can be some severe side effects of estrogen therapy, including heart attacks, breast cancer, and blood clots. (7) If you are only experiencing vaginal symptoms, then a vaginal ring or an estrogen cream will be a better option for you.
There is some amount of research (8) that shows that moderate doses of testosterone can also help women who are having problems with their libido due to menopause. (9) Testosterone therapy, however, is also known to have some potential side effects, including an increase in hair growth and acne, and risk for higher cholesterol levels in the body.
There are many lubricants such as Astroglide and K-Y Jelly that can help relieve vaginal dryness and also help make sex less painful and more comfortable. Lubricants may also help increase your libido if discomfort or pain during intercourse is the reason behind your reduced sex drive.
It surprises many to know that exercising can also help boost your libido. Exercising not only helps you fight against weight gain, but it can also improve your mood. This is because exercises release the feel-good hormones in the body, known as endorphins. Endorphins help lower stress and also triggers positive emotions, making you feel better on an overall level.
If you have not exercised in a while or if you are new to exercising, then it is better to start slow and work up an exercise schedule for at least 30 minutes every day. This may mean that you start with an exercise schedule for 10 minutes a day and then slowly build up your endurance.
Even walking for half an hour each day can help.
Be Open with your Partner
A loss of libido during menopause is usually due to physical symptoms. However, communicating with your partner and feeling more connected to them may also help boost your libido. Keeping lines of communication open with them and being honest about what you are going through is key to a healthy relationship.
And remember that sex is not the only way you can feel close to your partner. The focus should be on intimacy between both of you instead of sex. Even non-sexual acts of intimacy can help boost your sex drive.
Kegel exercises work by tightening the pelvic muscles. This increases the sensations during sex. Here’s how you can do Kegels:
- The muscles that you use for doing Kegels are the pelvic floor muscles. You can quickly locate the pelvic floor – stop peeing midway. The muscles you use for this are your pelvic floor muscles.
- Now contract the pelvic floor muscles and hold the contraction for 5 seconds.
- Now slowly release the muscles for 5 seconds.
- Repeat this move at least 10 times for 3 times a day.
A decrease or loss of libido during menopause is nothing to get alarmed over. It is experienced by many women worldwide, and it generally happens due to the reduction in hormone levels in the body. During and after menopause, hormonal production starts to fall to very low levels. This indicates that symptoms such as vaginal dryness that you may experience during menopause are not going to improve without treatment. Other symptoms that may also lead to a lack of sex drive, such as night sweats, tend to gradually go away in most women.
If you are worried about your libido and other bodily changes during menopause, then consult your doctor. There are treatments that can help treat most of the underlying causes of a reduced libido during menopause.
- Cumming, G.P., Currie, H.D., Moncur, R. and Lee, A.J., 2009. Web-based survey on the effect of menopause on women’s libido in a computer-literate population. Menopause international, 15(1), pp.8-12.
- Bachmann, G.A., Leiblum, S.R., Sandler, B., Ainsley, W., Narcessian, R., Shelden, R. and Hymans, H.N., 1985. Correlates of sexual desire in post-menopausal women. Maturitas, 7(3), pp.211-216.
- Palacios, S., Menendez, C., Jurado, A.R., Castano, R. and Vargas, J.C., 1995. Changes in sex behaviour after menopause: effects of tibolone. Maturitas, 22(2), pp.155-161.
- Leiblum, S., Bachmann, G., Kemmann, E., Colburn, D. and Swartzman, L., 1983. Vaginal atrophy in the postmenopausal woman: the importance of sexual activity and hormones. Jama, 249(16), pp.2195-2198.
- Castelo-Branco, C., Cancelo, M.J., Villero, J., Nohales, F. and Juliá, M.D., 2005. Management of post-menopausal vaginal atrophy and atrophic vaginitis. Maturitas, 52, pp.46-52.
- Hammond, C.B., 1996. Menopause and hormone replacement therapy: an overview. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 87(2), pp.2S-15S.
- Johnson, S.R., 1998. Menopause and hormone replacement therapy. Medical Clinics of North America, 82(2), pp.297-320.
- New England Journal of Medicine. (2019). Testosterone for Low Libido in Postmenopausal Women Not Taking Estrogen | NEJM. [online] Available at: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0707302#t=abstract [Accessed 21 Nov. 2019].
- Somboonporn, W., Bell, R.J. and Davis, S.R., 2005. Testosterone for peri and postmenopausal women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (4).
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