For many women, menopause can feel liberating— no more surprise visits from Aunt Flo or having to worry about an unplanned pregnancy. At the same time, this huge change in our bodies comes with its fair share of things to worry about. From hot flashes to mood swings, there is no shortage of things to complain about after changes to hormone levels start.
Perimenopause and menopause can affect so many different parts of the body, including your libido and sexual health. In fact, sometimes changes to libido can be the first indication of these hormonal shifts taking place in the body. If you suspect that your libido has started changing, keep reading to learn more about how perimenopause can affect your sex drive.
Some women experience a boost to their libido as they approach menopause, also known as entering perimenopause. However, most women experience the opposite— they have a loss of libido. This low libido is caused by a drop in estrogen and progesterone levels, which can make it more difficult to get aroused and cause vaginal dryness or discomfort during sexual activity.
These hormonal changes can cause other menopausal symptoms that could be affecting your level of sexual interest. Hot flashes and crashing fatigue can leave perimenopausal women feeling exhausted. Other menopausal symptoms like irritability, mood swings, and depression can also have a negative impact on libido. Weight gain is also common during perimenopause and menopause, which may make you feel less comfortable with your body image or with someone seeing your body.
If perimenopause is affecting your sex drive, take a moment to remind yourself that it doesn’t mean you’re broken or need to be fixed. Think of this as an opportunity to get to know your body again and try boosting your libido with a few of these tips:
It may be time to make some changes to your sex life. Talk to your partner about the changes that are happening in your body, and don’t be afraid to communicate your needs. Spending more time on foreplay and trying out different sex toys or sexual health products are all things you can do to help increase your pleasure during sexual intercourse. Putting the focus on intimacy and removing the expectation of an orgasm can help you start to enjoy sex more.
A decrease in estrogen levels can affect blood flow to the vagina and cause vaginal tissue to become thinner, which can make women less sensitive to stimulation. Other types of stimulation, like using fingers or oral sex, can help women feel pleasure or experience an orgasm during sex. You may also benefit from experimenting with different sexual positions, so get creative and don’t forget to communicate with your partner. Remember that your body is going through some huge changes, and don’t be afraid to spend a little solo time with yourself. Masturbation can help you re-familiarize yourself with your body without the pressure of wanting to please your partner.
Hormonal changes during perimenopause can also negatively impact vaginal lubrication, which can make sex uncomfortable or painful. Non-water-based lubricants can damage condoms, so you should stick to water-based vaginal moisturizers if pregnancy or STIs are a concern for you during perimenopause.
If the side effects of perimenopause are negatively affecting your sex life, bring it up with your healthcare provider. There are a number of treatment options, like different prescription medications, over-the-counter products, and supplements that may help women find relief during perimenopause. For example, many women who experience vaginal dryness or vaginal atrophy during menopause can benefit from prescription estrogen in the form of a cream, pill, or vaginal ring. In some cases, your healthcare provider may refer you to a sex therapist or recommend couples therapy.
Talking to your doctor about sex can be uncomfortable, so if you’re feeling nervous about bringing it up, consider bringing notes on what you’re experiencing and what questions you have. If you see a nurse before the doctor comes in, telling the nurse you want to talk to the doctor about sexual issues can help you eliminate the awkwardness of trying to bring it up.
Working out can help with several different symptoms of perimenopause, including weight gain, bloating, and insomnia. It also releases endorphins, which can help to reduce stress levels and decrease feelings of irritability.
Exercises that help strengthen your pelvic floor can enhance sensations during sex and increase pleasure. If you don’t have the time to work out or don’t want to, you can also tighten your pelvic muscles through regular Kegel exercises. Although Kegel exercises won’t actually tighten the vagina, they can help to improve blood flow to the vagina.
If perimenopause is hurting your sex life, talk to your partner about it. Let them know when something feels uncomfortable or painful, and pointing out the things you enjoy can teach them how to pleasure you more. Perimenopause and menopause can make women interested in having sex— and that’s absolutely okay— but sharing that with your partner can help them manage any negative feelings they may be experiencing, like rejection or not feeling desired.
Less sex and sex you aren’t enjoying can make you feel less connected to your partner and cause relationship problems. By keeping an open dialogue about pleasure and how you can support each other in and out of the bedroom, you and your partner may start to feel more connected and have an active sex life you both enjoy during perimenopause.