It’s true, of course, that menopause brings physical changes in a woman’s body, some of which might make sexual intercourse uncomfortable or even painful. But women can overcome these problems and go on to make postmenopausal sex the most enjoyable of her life.
Physical Changes of Menopause
In the wake of menopause, a woman’s ovaries stop making estrogen, the primary female sex hormone. With the precipitous drop in estrogen, vaginal tissue becomes drier and less elastic in nature. This can make sexual intercourse less pleasurable. Fortunately, regular use of long-acting vaginal moisturizers and low doses of vaginal estrogen therapy can keep the lining of the vagina healthy, paving the way for more enjoyable sex.
All too many women fear that with the passage of menopause, they’ve also passed their peak sexually and that it’s all downhill from there. New York-based sex therapist Jane Greer says that women are at their so-called sexual peak “when they’re feeling the most free, energized, and tuned into their sexuality.”
Less to Worry About
After menopause, women no longer have to contend with the discomfort and inconvenience of monthly menstruation, nor must they worry about the possibility of getting pregnant. Being freed from such concerns should be energizing, allowing women to more fully enjoy sexual activity in their postmenopausal years.
And regular vaginal sexual activity after menopause can improve vaginal health, according to the North American Menopause Society. Regular sexual activity “stimulates blood flow, helps keep your vaginal muscles toned, and maintains your vagina’s length and stretchiness,” says NAMS.
Strategies and Treatments
For those women who still feel overwhelmed by the number of sexual problems that might surface after menopause, the society points out that there are just as many or more strategies and treatments for overcoming those problems.
Improved vaginal health and elasticity are not the only benefits of an active sex life after menopause. A pair of behavioral and psychological researchers at England’s Coventry University explored the association between sexual activity and cognitive function in men and women between the ages of 50 and 89. Their findings were published in the March 2016 issue of “Age and Ageing.”
Cognitive Function Tested
Using data available from Wave 6 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, the researchers looked at the performance of 6,833 older adults covered in the study on two different tests of cognitive function. The first test focused on number sequencing, which broadly relates to executive function, while the second dealt with word recall and broadly related to memory.
They found that sexually active men and women performed better than sexually inactive men and women in both number sequencing and word recall. Women’s gains in word recall — a measure of memory — were particularly notable.
Recent Advances Cited
Some of the medications that pave the way for improved sexual function after menopause are of relatively recent vintage, according to an article posted at YourCareEverywhere.com. Such medications include antidepressants, bioidentical hormone therapy, hormone replacement therapy, and vaginal estrogen.
Developmental psychologist Cheryl Slomkowski, the article’s author, recounted a recent conversation she had with another health care professional about the progress made in treating postmenopausal sexual problems. The two questioned whether their mothers “simply stopped or avoided having sexual intercourse because it was too painful. Did women think it was just part of life to have a decreased libido as they got older, and either accepted it or became depressed over the loss of desire and enjoyment?”
More Help Available Today
Whatever the answers to those questions might be, one thing is certain. Today’s postmenopausal women can choose from a variety of medications and therapies that can help them address both the psychological and physiological challenges to postmenopausal sexual activity.
If the prospect of improved cognitive function in the form of better memory isn’t enough to persuade postmenopausal women to stay sexually active, a recent article at AARP.org suggests weekly sex can prolong your life. AARP writer Kim Hayes said the evidence that regular sex can extend life comes from a small-scale study first published in the July 2017 issue of Psychoneuroendocrinology.
More Sex = Longer Life
Over the course of a week, researchers led by Tomas Cabeza de Baca assessed the intimacy, partner support, relationship satisfaction, and stress levels of 129 women in committed relationships. The research team found that women who had sex at least once during the week had longer telomeres — DNA strand protectors — than those women who didn’t have sex at all during the week-long study. Earlier studies have determined that those with shorter telomeres are significantly more likely to develop a degenerative disease or die early.
As previously noted, menopause has long been associated with a loss of interest in sex among women. However, a recent British study casts some doubt on the accuracy of this supposed link. Researchers at England’s University of Southampton and University College London examined the reasons that men and women in long-term relationships lost interest in sex. They found that 15 percent of the men and 34 percent of the women they interviewed reported that they had lost interest in sex for three months or longer in the preceding year.
Why Women Lose Interest in Sex
Among those surveyed, this loss of interest in sex was most common among men between the ages of 35 and 44, while it was most often seen in women between the ages of 55 and 64. While women in this age bracket are certainly postmenopausal, the British researchers found that their loss of interest in sex apparently had nothing to do with menopause. Researchers found instead that women are more likely to lose interest in sex because of an absence of emotional closeness, a breakdown in communication, or poor physical and mental health.
In addition, the British research team determined that women are more likely to retain their interest in sex if they can talk comfortably about the subject with their partners and can share their sexual likes and dislikes with those partners.
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