The ultimate guide to sex and the menopause
Going through the menopause can have a lot of physical and mental effects. In addition to classic symptoms like hot flushes and mood swings, you might also find that your sex life is impacted.
How does the menopause affect sex?
The menopause can affect your sex life in a few ways. The most direct changes are:
- Increased vaginal dryness and itching
- Discomfort and pain during sex
- Reduced sex drive
Indirectly, other menopause symptoms can also lead to problems in the bedroom. If you have night sweats or difficulty sleeping, you may have less energy for sex. You might also find that your mood is affected, or that you feel less confident about your body, and that this results in less desire for intimacy with your partner.
How can I improve my sex life during the menopause?
Tackle vaginal symptoms
Vaginal dryness and discomfort can be a big problem in the bedroom. But the good news is there are plenty of products you can use to combat your symptoms.
Three products to consider are:
Lubricants are products designed to improve sex by reducing friction. Water-based lubricants are normally considered the best option for sex, as they’re unlikely to cause irritation and won’t damage condoms. These can be put in and around the vagina, or onto a sex toy or your partner’s penis before sex. Silicone-based lubes are another good option – these tend to last longer and be more slippery.
Vaginal moisturisers are creams or gels designed to be applied inside and around the vagina a few times a week. Using vaginal creams such as Vagisan regularly will help keep the vagina and vulva soft and lubricated, and reduce itching, dryness, and discomfort, making it easier to have sex.
Vaginal oestrogen is a type of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). It comes as a cream, pessary, or vaginal ring, and is designed to be inserted directly into the vagina to release oestrogen into the surrounding tissue. Read on to learn more about HRT.
While it’s fine to put lubricants and vaginal moisturisers and oestrogen into your vagina, it’s important to avoid using other products that could increase irritation and dryness. Try not to use perfumed soaps or washes, or to put any creams or lotions in your vagina that aren’t specifically designed for intimate use.
Switch up what you do in the bedroom
For menopausal women, sex can be uncomfortable or even painful. You may need to try having different types of sex that put less emphasis on penetration, like oral sex and mutual masturbation. Spending more time on foreplay can also be helpful, as this will help to get your vagina properly lubricated.
Try out sex toys
As part of switching up your sex habits, why not try sex toys? If you’re finding penetration painful or uncomfortable, a small sex toy, or one that focuses on external stimulation might really help.
Another aspect of using sex toys is that they can add more spice and variety to your sex life. This may help to increase your sex drive, and create more intimacy between you and your partner.
Communicate with your sexual partner
A healthy sex life is all about communication. Try to be honest and open about your symptoms, and how you’re feeling about your body and the idea of having sex. Let your partner know if there are certain things you want to try, or if there are things you no longer find enjoyable.
If you’re finding that your sex life is really suffering, and that this is having an impact on your relationship, it may be worth getting some couples counselling, or speaking to a sex therapist.
Relate has some useful resources about sex for women going through the menopause.
Regular exercise will help you feel better mentally and physically. If your self-esteem has taken a dip because of a change in your appearance, getting more active can be a great way to improve how you feel about your body. Read our exercise guide for tips.
Exercise will also help you sleep better, and will boost your energy and mood throughout the day – all important if you want to have a healthy sex life!
Consider taking HRT
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be really effective for treating the symptoms of the menopause. It can treat vaginal dryness and reduced sex drive, as well as hot flushes, night sweats, and mood swings.
There are some health risks associated with HRT, including an increased risk of breast cancer and blood clots, but these are considered very small. For the majority of women, the benefits of HRT will outweigh the risks.
HRT usually contains synthetic versions of oestrogen and progesterone, and comes in tablet form. Other types include patches, gels, and implants. If you’re struggling with sex mainly because of vaginal dryness, you can localise your treatment and use vaginal oestrogen. This carries fewer risks than standard types of HRT, so it can be a good option for women who are concerned about side effects and complications.
Boost your sex life with LloydsPharmacy
We stock a wide range of products that can help boost your sex life as you go through the menopause, including vaginal moisturisers, lubricants, sex toys, and supplements. Browse our menopause products here, and our sex toys and lubes here.
Image for illustrative purposes only. Posed by models.