by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN, NP
With so much change occurring in our bodies (and our lives!) during the years of perimenopause and menopause, it’s not hard to imagine that our sexual experiences may be changing as well. Hot flashes and mood swings may impact how we feel about sex, while weight gain may leave us feeling less sexy. Diminishing sex drive may leave us wanting sex less or finding us enjoying sex less than we used to because of vaginal dryness and discomfort.
In addition to physical changes, we may be experiencing changes in our lives on so many levels, with kids growing older and transitioning out of our homes into an empty nest scenario or perhaps life right now includes hormonally-charged teenagers.
There is a “settling in” that can sometimes occur in a relationship after being together for a while that can shift our view of sex, or there may be unresolved relationship issues that are suddenly entering into the bedroom for the first time. For some, it may mean being single again and re-entering the dating world may lead us to revisit our sexual desires and values or maybe even cause us to retreat into overwhelm!
Often there are concerns and challenges around aging parents to manage, stresses at work and then there is our own personal transition. Menopause is a time for us to question our priorities and our desires as we head into the second half of our lives and to find our true voices.
Not surprisingly, all of this can lead us to a place where sex isn’t the priority that it used to be. I believe it’s important for you to define the role you want sex to play in your life and to know that that role may well change over time. So if sex is on the back burner by choice right now, that’s totally ok. But even if it’s less frequent, sex shouldn’t be any less enjoyable.
A healthy sex life is an important part of who we are and research shows staying active sexually can bring benefits both physically and emotionally. At Women to Women, we want you to know that you deserve a satisfying sex life if you want one and that you CAN continue to have pleasurable sex at mid-life — and beyond. Just ask some of my patients in their sixties!
Read our article, “Safe (and Enjoyable) Sex In Your Middle Years,” for more on this topic.
So let’s look at what’s going on in our bodies and what we can do to maintain or restore a healthy sex life at any age.
Why Does Sex Drive Decline?
Patients sometimes ask me, “If it’s normal and natural to desire sex, then why does that stop or change as we get older?” It isn’t hard to see how that can happen when you look at all of the changes we just mentioned that are occurring in our bodies and our lives at this time – there’s a lot going on!
Sex drive is affected by our physicality and the changes occurring within our bodies as well as by emotional factors. As with most things in our bodies, the physical and the emotional issues are interconnected and interdependent so we need to address both. Let’s begin with the physical factors, as I know so many of my patients struggle there.
One of the most obvious triggers of lower sex drive is hormonal imbalance (Click here to read our many informative articles on this topic). In addition to the common symptoms of insomnia, hot flashes, mood swings and weight gain that we see in perimenopause, sex drive is also affected by our changing estrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels. Usually, once hormonal balance is restored, so is libido. Let’s look at the key hormonal players and how they impact your sex drive.
Click here to take our Menopause Health Assessment.
One of the most important drivers of libido is the hormone testosterone. Many women in perimenopause have lower testosterone levels that can impact their sexual interest, arousal and response as well as their lubrication and orgasms.