For some women, the menopause is an incredibly liberating time when it comes to sex – for a start, we don’t have to worry about unplanned pregnancy anymore.*
But for many, this wonderful freedom we hoped for doesn’t come. In fact, you might feel like your sex drive has got up and left the building, never to be seen again.
Dropping levels of hormones are at fault here, as they play havoc not only on us physically but in our heads too – and, for most women, great sex requires both mind and body.
When you combine this with symptoms like weight gain, vaginal dryness and low mood, it’s no surprise so many of us find our libido takes a hit during the perimenopause and menopause.
*You can still get pregnant in the perimenopause, so continue to use contraception during this time if you don’t want to risk an unplanned pregnancy.
It’s not all doom and gloom – with a bit of self-belief (and these tips and tricks) you can and will boost your sex drive during the menopause.
If you have a partner, make sure they read our ‘For Them’ section, as it’s especially important you’re both on the same page, working towards the same goals with this one.
TALK TO YOUR GP ABOUT HRT
Hormone Replacement Therapy, HRT for short – essentially does what it says on the tin. It replaces the hormones that your body is naturally losing due to the menopause, helping reduce your symptoms, including changes to your sex drive.
There are a number of ways you can take HRT medications, including tablets, patches and creams. Most women can take HRT but there are some risks, which your doctor should discuss with you.
WORK THOSE PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES
Strong pelvic floor (or kegel) muscles not only help
if you’re struggling with a leaky bladder or frequent urinary tract infections but can vastly improve your sex life. The bigger the muscles down there, the better your blood flow to the area will be, making the whole ride (excuse the pun) more pleasurable.
You don’t need a gym or fancy equipment to train your pelvic floor. All you need to do is contract and relax the muscles that stop you peeing. Start by doing this mid-flow to make sure you’ve identified the right ones. Work up to being able to do 10 five-second contractions in a row, three times a day.
We know you’re probably thinking ‘how on earth can exercise improve my sex drive?’ but bear with us. Getting your heart rate up and those happy endorphins pinging around your brain will boost your mood, making it more likely you’ll be able to get in the mood.
Exercise is also great for tackling other symptoms such as weight gain, which will help you feel foxier when your clothes come off. Go get ‘em, tiger.
MAKE TIME FOR INTIMACY
For many women, loss of libido during the menopause comes down to more physical symptoms like vaginal dryness, tender boobs and fatigue.
Keeping lines of communication open with your partner and talking honestly is really important, as is making time to be intimate with each other.
This doesn’t have to mean full-blown sex – it could simply be cuddling, kissing or massaging. Touching can work wonders for building up sexual desire.
INVEST IN A GOOD LUBE
Finding sex uncomfortable? Or worse, is it painful? Then it’s time to make a new purchase for your bedside drawers.
SPEAK TO A SEX THERAPIST
In some cases, women who’ve found sex painful or problematic can go on to develop something called vaginismus. This is an automatic reaction where your vaginal muscles clamp up, making penetrative sex almost impossible.
HINTS AND TIPS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE THEY THINK MAY BE ENTERING OR IN MENOPAUSE
It’s tough when you’re both not on the same page sexually, but there are things you can do to understand where their head is at. Remember, you’re stronger together when it comes to dealing with changes in sex drive.
OUR ADVICE TO THEM
In terms of self-care, we’ve recommended that they exercise – in general to boost their mind/body health and specifically to work out her pelvic floor muscles. They could also talk to their doctor about Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) as it may help to balance their hormones and pump up their sex drive.
ACCEPT WHEN THEY ARE NOT IN THE MOOD
Although it’s hard, try not to take their rejection of your advances personally. No one likes hearing the word ‘no’ but if they feel pressured in any way – although you didn’t mean to – it can create a vicious circle where frustrations begin to arise.
Instead of feeling disheartened, offer to give them a massage or cuddle instead. Touch is an important tool for keeping intimacy alive in a relationship, especially when sex is off the cards.
ASK THEM TO EXPLAIN
You may have had a headache a hundred times, but have you had a menopausal headache?
Don’t assume you know what they feel like. Gently ask them to explain the effect it is having on them physically and emotionally.
You may not be able to do anything to make them feel better. But they may not want answers, they may just need to talk – and be properly heard. Switch your listening ears on and give them your full attention.
WORK ON YOUR SEX LIFE TOGETHER
Approaching problems in your sex life as one is key to finding ways to overcome obstacles. Rather than treating a loss of libido as their issue, make it your collective job to work on it.
Talk about it and use the word ‘our’ rather than ‘your’, and ‘we’ and ‘us’ instead ‘you’ or me’.
You may also want to consider sex therapy to reset and reboot your intimacy with one and other.
LET THEM KNOW YOU CARE
Knowing we’re loved, appreciated and supported is a powerful thing when we’re feeling emotionally and physically a bit wobbly. However, telling a friend or partner without sounding patronising is easier said than done.
Let them know through your actions. If you live with them, that might be making time to eat dinner together, asking how their day has been and really listening, or gestures like prepping their lunch for work and sorting chores without being asked. If you’re a friend, why not send a care package, arrange a coffee or even just drop them a text to let her know you’re thinking of them?
If you’re worried about burning mouth syndrome, you should see your GP who can discuss your symptoms in the context of the menopause.
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