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Menopause and Sex Drive: Everything You Need to Know

Posted by womentc in Menopause & Painful Sex, Women's Health 06 Jul 2022

menopause and sex drive

Going through menopause, you may be experiencing a decrease in your libido, or sex drive. Although it is a common outcome of menopause, there are ways to overcome it so you can continue having enjoyable, sexual experiences.  Read on for details and tips, and watch our short video, Menopause and Libido.

Menopause: What Is It

Menopause is the permanent cessation of menstruation. It is a natural biological process that typically occurs between the ages of 39 and 55. 

Perimenopause is the preceding phase of the menopause transition, during which the majority of women will begin to experience physical and menstrual changes caused by a decrease in the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Common Symptoms Associated With Menopause

Hot flashes are the most common and familiar menopausal symptom.  A hot flash is a sudden wave of heat or warmth on the face, neck, and chest, with profuse sweating, and – for some – the feeling of being chilled afterwards.  The statistics suggest that an average hot flash lasts for four minutes, but that can vary greatly.  The frequency of hot flashes also varies from rare to very frequent, to even several times per hour.

Other symptoms may include sleep problems, low libido, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and weight gain. Many women also experience changes in their hair and skin during menopause.

How Menopause Affects Sex Drive

Does menopause affect libido? The answer to this question is not simple, as many factors can affect a woman’s sex drive during menopause, such as loss of estrogen, incontinence, disrupted sleep, increased anxiety, health issues, dry and painful vagina, etc.  Conversely, some women will actually see an increase in their sexual interest because they are no longer worried about getting pregnant, or because their lives are less stressed, or because they are back in the dating scene after a divorce or a loss of a partner.

Physical Changes During Menopause Affecting Your Libido

Vaginal Dryness and Atrophy

The decrease in estrogen causes the vagina to become less elastic, less lubricated, and more prone to chafing irritation. These changes contribute significantly to discomfort and pain during vaginal penetration.  For many women, these changes result in a vaginal opening that narrowed to the point of inability to have any penetration, may it be a finger, a speculum, or a penis..

Weight Gain

As the metabolism slows during menopause, weight gain is a common outcome.  The added pounds can decrease self-esteem and body image, making the woman apprehensive about her appearance and reluctant to expose it for sexual engagement.

Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

Hot flashes and night sweats can have a significant impact on your quality of life, disrupting sleep, increasing fatigue and irritability,  and making sexual engagement drop way down on the priority list of a woman.  As a result, many find that they’re simply too tired for sex, which can be frustrating to the partner and to the relationship. 

Depression and Irritability

The feelings of depression and irritability that are often associated with menopause do not bode well with feeling sexual… But here are solutions and you need not feel stuck in this miserable state!

 Ways to Increase Your Libido During Menopause

Menopause is not a terminal illness nor a death sentence to the woman’s libido and sex life.  Medicine now has a better understanding of this stage of life and can offer solutions to most disruptive outcomes. Furthermore, the Internet offers women and clinicians access to resources and information for continuously improving libido management.

#1 – Visit Your Doctor

Have an honest conversation about your struggle, which may assist them in suggesting treatments, such as:

  • home remedies;

  • prescription medications, including vaginal estrogen, and anti-anxiety;

  • over-the-counter (OTC) medications;

  • Needed tests for further diagnostics;

  • Referral to specialists, such as mental health, sexual counseling, pelvic floor physiotherapy, etc.

#2 – Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Regular exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, and there are several advantages to be gained from a regular fitness program. Exercise can also help you feel better. Endorphins are a chemical that is produced in response to physical activity, which can help reduce stress and produce feelings of pleasure.

If you’re new to exercise or haven’t exercised in a while, start with 10 minutes a day and gradually build up. That may mean exercising for 10 minutes each day at first until your endurance improves. You could also think about attempting an activity that you’ve always wanted to do but never actually got around to doing.

#3 – Maintain a Healthy Emotional state

As any woman who has gone through menopause can attest, the hormonal changes that occur during this time can often lead to mood swings, increased anxiety, and decreased libido. While these symptoms are entirely natural, they can nevertheless be frustrating and even debilitating. Fortunately, there are things you can do to manage them. 

One of the most effective methods is individual therapy. Other options include yoga, meditation, medications for underlying emotional conditions, and eliminating toxic people and relationships from your life.

#4 – Maintain a Healthy, Strong Pelvic Floor

For many, the idea of exercising their pelvic floor muscles is a bit of a mystery. However, Kegel exercises can provide a number of benefits, both in and out of the bedroom. 

  • In terms of sexual pleasure, Kegel exercises can help tighten the pelvic muscles, leading to enhanced sensations during sex; 

  • Kegel exercises help reduce the likelihood of incontinence, as well as assist with managing existing incontinence;

  • Kegel exercises are also a first line of defense against (mild) prolapse of the pelvic organs.

There are several exercise protocols for your choosing.  If in doubt, or if not sure you are doing them correctly, see a pelvic floor physiotherapist for individual guidance.  

For our recommended protocol and other tips about Kegels, watch our video Kegel Exercises and Sex.

#5 – Use Vaginal Lubricant

When the tissue of the vagina isn’t lubricated enough, intercourse can be painful and uncomfortable. This can lead to a decrease in sexual desire as the prospect of sex becomes less appealing – why suffer pain?

There are many lubricants available, so it is important to find one that works well for you. Be sure to experiment with different brands and types until you find one that meets your needs. Watch our short video, How To Use Vaginal Lubrication.

#6 – Make Intimacy Fun

Sex is often seen as the ultimate act of intimacy, but it is not the only way to feel close to your partner. In fact, affection such as kissing, caressing, and simply spending time together, help to create a strong bond between you and your partner, which can lead to greater sexual satisfaction. 

Other tips for boosting sexual interest include:

The Bottom Line of Menopause & Sex Drive

The loss of libido is a common symptom of menopause, and it can be a difficult and frustrating experience for many women. Thankfully, there are many options for restoring sexual interest and enjoying a healthy and fulfilling sex life during menopause.