It's not too much to ask to have good sex when your older! However, it's common for sex drive to decrease with time for both men and women. There can be lots of different reasons for this. Here we explain how sex drive and menopause are linked, and share tips to improve your sexual wellbeing.
If 'wellness' is feeling good in your mind, body and soul then a healthy sex life certainly plays a part. But what is sexual health?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sexual health as *"a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality, and not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction, or infirmity”* (1).
Your sex life, and appetite for sex is completely personal. Sex does help you feel connected to your partner(s) and maintain strong relationships - both of which are important for quality of life (2).
At Alva, we believe that women at any stage of life can have the sex life they want. Let's be aspirational!
Too many women accept a decline in sex drive with age. With it often comes a negative impact it has on their personal lives. But there are lots of different ways you can seek help for low sex drive - and reintroduce intimacy into your life.
Loads of different things can affect whether you want to get in the mood or not - and they aren't all linked to menopause. Broadly, we can think of 3 categories (3):
The relationship between menopause and these factors is not straightforward. Menopause can impact all of them!
For both men and women the level of sex hormones drop with age. Testosterone, which controls sexual desire and motivation (4), declines with age. Importantly for women oestrogen also drops with age, and with it bring menopausal symptoms that directly affect sex drive. These include:
These symptoms are worse during perimenopause - when hormones are bouncing around. But as hormones settle down with age, it brings a tranquility that is more conducive to intimacy. Thank goodness!
Vaginal dryness is often an early symptom of perimenopause - and it can make sex painful. Obviously, this is off-putting when it comes to getting in the mood. You can try various forms of lubrication to help make sex easier. Intimate moisturisers, applied regularly, can also help with the daily 'grind' that is vaginal dryness.
Oestrogen makes the wall of the vagina thick, healthy and moist - so when it falls this all changes. The wall of the vagina is left thinner, more delicate and drier. Vaginal atrophy is when your vaginal changes shape because there's less of this healthy fatty tissue around it. If you're struggling with this there are creams with hormones in and, again lubricants and moisturisers can help.
Once you're hormones settle down it's easier to reestablish your sex drive. But don't just wait to get through the menopause - there's things you can do now to help.
Who.int. 2006. WHO | Defining Sexual Health. [online]
Available at: https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/sexual_health/defining_sh/en/
Lee, D., Nazroo, J., O’Connor, D., Blake, M. and Pendleton, N., 2015. Sexual Health and Well-being Among Older Men and Women in England: Findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Archives of Sexual Behavior, [online] 45(1), pp.133-144.
Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-014-0465-1.
Mernone, L., Fiacco, S. and Ehlert, U., 2019. Psychobiological Factors of Sexual Functioning in Aging Women – Findings From the Women 40+ Healthy Aging Study. Frontiers in Psychology, [online] 10(546).
Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6424880/.
Bachmann, G. and Leiblum, S., 2004. The impact of hormones on menopausal sexuality: a literature review. Menopause, [online] 11, pp.120-130.
Available at: https://insights.ovid.com/article/00042192-200411010-00020.