You know menopause, that celebratory time when you realize periods are no longer a part of your life. There’s more to the story than that. First comes perimenopause. Perimenopause is when a person experiences changes in the function of the ovaries. It is a natural decline in the hormones released by the ovaries. Perimenopause is the natural transition from menstruating to not menstruating.
Menopause is when a person hasn’t had a period for 12 months. While we mostly hear about the negative aspects of menopause it’s important to realize it comes with positives and negatives. While menopause may cause women to experience uncomfortable health issues, it can also be a time to learn about ourselves and our relationships. “Going through the change” is a normal part of the life cycle and can have a positive impact on you and your relationship. The changes in the body associated with menopause can be an opportunity to enhance your sex life.
Some of the positive aspects of menopause:
- No periods
- More in touch with our intuition
- More likely to speak our mind
- Time to focus on ourselves (if you had children, hopefully, they have moved out of the house)
- Developing different ways of being intimate
While symptoms of menopause can affect our sex life, it can also bring big opportunities. Sexual symptoms of perimenopause/menopause include vaginal dryness, thinning of the vaginal walls, hot flashes, sleep changes, and changes in mood. A common complaint is a low libido.
Low libido can occur anytime during the life cycle and may reflect the couple’s relationship, not a biological health problem. If a couple has been together for an extended period of time sex can become routine. Doing the same thing over and over and over is not very sexy. Routine sex can lead to boring sex. Boring sex can be the cause of low libido as opposed to menopause. So look at your sex life, is it exciting or boring? Is it something you look forward to or something you feel is an obligation?
Address low libido with open communication. Talking to your partner is definitely the most important action a couple can do when addressing any type of relationship issue. Let them know what you’re feeling, emotionally and physically.
A person may have less desire for intercourse but want to remain sexual. This can be an opportunity to explore and discover new ways of giving and receiving pleasure. Couples can have a lot of fun when intercourse is removed from the equation.
Couples can move away from vaginal intercourse and experience more sensual pleasures like massage, oral and/or manual stimulation, making out, or snuggling and holding each other. Try sex toys like vibrators to enhance stimulation. If there is going to be genital contact, make sure to have extended foreplay, be playful, and use a water-based lubricant. Do not rush genital contact.
Talk to your doctor about medical interventions that treat the bothersome symptoms of menopause. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), vaginal creams, and vaginal moisturizers, along with complementary treatments, are available.
Kelley Johnson, Ph.D.is a fierce advocate for finding positive solutions to people’s sexual concerns. A sex educator since 1989 and a private practitioner since 2010, she helps people overcome sexual obstacles through education and consultation. Visit her website at kelleyjohnsonphd.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.