The Menopause and Low Libido: Five tips for re-igniting sexual desire•
Posted on April 12 2019
It’s just typical that at the very time when you can stop worrying about contraception and your periods getting in the way of your sex life, many women find that fluctuating menopausal hormones cause their libido to take a plunge.
How can the menopause cause a lower libido?
Our libido, or sex drive, depends on a whole range of factors. It can often result as a side effect of the menopause because the levels of the hormones progesterone and testosterone – which play a key role in firing up your libido – fluctuate and decline. It’s also not helped by the stress and tiredness you might be feeling, as well as having to cope with night sweats, aching joints and changes to your body shape. You might find that you’re also experiencing vaginal dryness or discomfort, which are linked to dropping oestrogen levels in the body.
What can I do to increase my sexual desire?
It can take a while to adapt to this transitional time and to tune back into your sex life. The good news is that low libido is often only a short-term symptom of the menopause that will get better. With a little patience and a few tweaks to your lifestyle, there’s sure to be something out there that can help you...
1. Accept your changing body. According to the International Menopause Society, women in their mid 40s can typically gain on average around 1lb a year. This means that between the ages of 45-60 we could have gained around a stone. Even women who have managed to stay effortlessly slim all their lives can find that they start to struggle in their late 40s – if not with weight gain, then with the way their fat is distributed – for example extra ‘padding’ around the middle and back. As we get older, we also lose muscle and are generally not as firm and toned as we once were. Whilst these changes are a natural part of growing old, it might be a good time to take a look at your diet and introduce some exercise into your schedule if you haven’t already.
2. Live a healthy lifestyle. If you do decide you’d like to make a few lifestyle changes, there are many things you can try. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, checking portion sizes and taking regular exercise will not only help to keep your weight down and improve muscle tone, it can also reduce the severity of hot flushes and joint pain, as well as improve sleep. Around menopausal age, we often have lots to deal with – kids leaving home, parents getting older, job insecurity, as well as possibly brain fog, anxiety and tiredness. This may make life seem hectic and stressful. That sex comes lower down on your agenda at this point should not be any massive surprise. There are, however, many ways to help reduce stress. As well as taking regular exercise, evidence shows that relaxation techniques like mindfulness can also help.
3. Talk about it with others. We know it’s not always easy to talk. Ideally, tell your partner what you’re going through. If you can swap notes with your friends about whether their sex life has or was changed by the menopause and what they did about it, that’s great. But we understand that not everyone feels comfortable doing this face to face, so chatting anonymously online in a chat room or forum such as The Chilled Menopause might suit you better. Your GP is another important source of help and advice – you need to remember that they will have heard similar stories before, so don’t be embarrassed. They can offer therapy and counselling if needed and will also be able to help out should you be suffering from vaginal dryness or irritation. The key is to keep talking about it so those closest to you can understand what is going on.
4. Address vaginal dryness and discomfort. Dropping oestrogen levels during perimenopause and menopause tend to make vaginal tissue drier, tighter and less elastic. It’s no wonder that sex might become more uncomfortable. But sex shouldn’t be a painful experience. Dryness can sometimes be remedied using a vaginal moisturiser or water-based lubricant similar to those from Sylk who offer a female-friendly plant-based formula. If it’s been a few weeks and your symptoms are really getting you down, visit your GP to see what else he/she can recommend. Other solutions could include laser treatment, pelvic floor toners and supplements such as sea buckthorn, but do read up all you can about the various options out there, so you can make an informed choice.
We've found a brilliant must-read book written by Jane Lewis called Me and My Menopausal Vagina. Jane suffered from vaginal atrophy and has written about her experiences in collaboration with her daughter in a tongue-in-cheek way to help others going through similar experiences. It's informative, serious, tear jerking and guaranteed to make you laugh.
5. Try something different. Sex will no doubt mean something different to you now than when you were younger, but that doesn’t mean your days of being sexual or enjoying sex are over. It just means it might be different – your sexual responses might slow down and you may find it harder to become aroused. It’s important to take more time to explore what you do enjoy. Spend extra time on foreplay and talk to your partner about what is comfortable for you. If you don’t want to have sex, don’t feel obliged to, but do explain to your partner sensitively why you don’t so he/she doesn’t feel rejected.
Remember you are not alone. Most of us will experience a lack of sexual desire at some point in our lives, which can feel incredibly frustrating. If you do need further advice and support, please do make an appointment with your GP. And ultimately, once you have addressed any menopausal symptoms, try to enjoy this time in your life free from the worry of contraception. It might be a different phase in your love life, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good or even better than before.
Has your menopause journey been affected by low libido? Do let us know in the comments below and tell us what solutions you found.
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