Many women experience physical and emotional changes during menopause. These changes may impact the libido. The existence and severity of sexual side effects vary greatly from individual to individual. It is important to note that side effects are not always negative. Some women report an increased interest in sexual activity since the threat of pregnancy and monthly periods are no longer an issue.
Menopause was not always a subject for polite discussion. The change of life seemed to be a secret society reserved for the chosen few. Sitcoms made comedic fodder of women’s dramatic mood swings and hot flashes. Many women suffered the natural body changes in silence and embarrassment. Thankfully, women now have information readily available.
Decreased levels of estrogen can affect a woman’s body in many ways. Hot flashes or night sweats are a common menopausal symptom. These episodes can vary from being a minor nuisance to extreme episodes that negatively impact a woman’s quality of life and sexuality.
The loss of estrogen can also cause vaginal dryness and loss of elasticity. This may lead to painful penetration during intercourse. Spikes in hormonal levels may affect breast tissue causing tenderness to touch. This symptom generally subsides once menstruation has completely stopped. However, even the anticipation of pain can inhibit a woman’s desire for intimacy.
Many women complain of bladder control problems as a menopausal symptom. This may manifest itself with small leaks while laughing, sneezing or coughing. Some women have a greater sense of urgency and may experience a greater loss of control.
Emotional Impact of Menopause
Hormonal shifts may cause emotional reactions such as depression or anxiety. Because weight gain is a common menopausal side effect, many women experience body image issues during this time. “The change” is sometimes perceived as a sign of growing old or becoming less of a woman. This may prompt self-doubt or fear that could alter sexual desire.
The term “midlife crisis” does not only apply to men. Menopause may prompt a time of reflection or mourning over past hopes and dreams. It is not uncommon for a woman to make a major career or relationship change at this time of life.
Knowing the facts may not lessen the emotional impact of menopausal symptoms. Open discussions with family and friends may reduce fears and anxiety. Consider joining a community or online support group. Sometimes it is beneficial to share your feelings with someone who has walked in your shoes.
Encourage your partner to share his feelings and concerns. It is not uncommon for a partner to feel anxious or even angry because of decreased intimacy.
There are many over-the-counter products available that are designed to alleviate some of the menopausal side effects. Consider trying a water-soluble lubricant to decrease painful intercourse caused by vaginal dryness. Experiment with different sexual positions to increase comfort and enjoyment. This treatment may delight your partner. It is never too late to add some spice to your lovemaking.
Engaging in frequent intercourse will decrease dryness and increase the elasticity of the vagina. If a partner is not available, self-stimulation is an effective alternative. It is also a potent reminder of a woman’s sexual nature.
Consider keeping a record of hot flashes and a list of food and drink consumed during the day. There may be a common trigger between the two. Common culprits include caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods. Eliminating the offending items from your diet may reduce the frequency or intensity of the hot flashes.
Wear loose-fitting clothing when possible to reduce breast tenderness. Dress in layers. It is easier to remove a sweater during a hot flash if you are wearing a shirt underneath.
It is important to openly discuss menopausal symptoms with a physician. Estrogen replacement therapy may be indicated for some symptoms. Report any herbs or natural supplements used to avoid negative interaction with prescription drugs.
Menopause is a natural part of life. It is not the end. It is just another beginning. Stay active. Eat healthy foods. Be kind to yourself.