Safe (and Enjoyable) Sex in Your Middle Years

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

If you’ve been waiting in line at the supermarket or browsed a newsstand recently, you cannot help but notice the controversial and attention getting covers of today’s women’s magazines. If they are not sharing “the secret to losing weight overnight,” these magazines are offering up tips on how to have a better sex life or how to be and feel sexier.

They do this, of course, because sex sells – most of us wouldn’t mind feeling more sexy and having more enjoyable sex. If only it were as simple as a magazine checklist! So many women entering perimenopause or menopause have entered a new phase of their relationship lives – some may have been widowed while others may have ended a long-term relationship.

SS Mid Age Couple OceanHowever they got there, more and more of my patients are finding themselves navigating the dating scene once again and they are discovering that it’s a different world today than when they were last single. In addition to the media images about what is sexy and the magazine stories offering us “quick-fix sex solutions,” there is the presence of social media and internet dating sites that have changed the way people meet and date. These tools have made it easier for newly single people to connect with more people, even if it’s not for a long-term relationship.

Despite the ease with which we can meet people today, I’m often surprised when women come in for their annual exams and share that they have had unprotected sex. Whether pregnancy is a concern or not, they may have forgotten or just not been aware that there are other health concerns that come from being intimate with someone, regardless of your age.

In other ways, though, I am not so surprised. After all, sex is a wonderful, pleasurable experience. And being touched, held, caressed, and cuddled feels incredible, especially if you have not had that experience in a long time. Some of my patients tell me that after years without physical contact or connection, they couldn’t resist and the moment just got away from them.

Talking about sex can be difficult. Inquiring about your partner’s dating history may make you feel like a prude and you may even have no idea how to bring it up. But the same media that brings us information about the weight loss secrets of the stars is telling us that the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases among the 45-64 year old group has tripled in recent years.

We know it can be hard or awkward to discuss sex and sexual health. At Women to Women, we believe it’s important to talk about sex — it’s benefits and it’s risks — so that you are informed and you can make the best choices for your long-term health and well-being.

Whether you are single, divorced, or still committed to a long-term relationship, let’s start the conversation so you can enjoy the healthy, safe sex you deserve in the second phase of your life.

Sex, STDs, and Menopause/Perimenopause

Many women don’t realize that just because their periods are slowing down and becoming less regular, they can still become pregnant during perimenopause. Until you have gone 12 months without menstrual bleeding, you still need to protect yourself from the possibility of pregnancy.

But while there are many forms of birth control that can help you avoid pregnancy, only a condom can protect you from sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. If you have had sex without a condom and you have not been tested recently, even in a committed relationship, you really should consider getting tested for your own health and peace of mind.

That may seem extreme, and it surprises some of my patients, but there are several important reasons why I tell my patients this.

First, whether you have been using condoms faithfully or not, the reality is that many of us have already been exposed. It’s estimated that about 1/3 of us have had or will have a diagnosed STD in our lives. If you’ve already been diagnosed, there is nothing to ashamed of – 15 million Americans get diagnosed each year and 65 million people are living with an STD that is considered “incurable.” STDs are becoming increasingly common.