One of the most common, but not often talked about symptom of menopause is the lessened desire for sex during the menopausal transition. Many women asked themselves, "What has happened to my desire for sex and my ability to enjoy it?"
With lots of years ahead, but little or no hormones, many postmenopausal women experience diminished or absent sexual desire, difficulty becoming aroused or achieving orgasm, or pain during intercourse caused by menopause-related vaginal changes.
For most post-menopausal women, hormone-related changes are the primary factors that interfere with sexual satisfaction. Many women either are too tired, not interested, and if they are interested just a little, it takes forever to get warmed up.
In a survey of 580 menopausal women conducted by SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, 45 percent reported a decrease in sexual desire after menopause, 37 percent reported no change and 10 percent reported an increase.
So what happens to a woman's body during menopause to cause all this?
First of all there is the reduction of a women’s testosterone levels. Testosterone is considered the libido hormone for both men and women.
Testosterone levels in women decline by about 50 percent between the ages of 20 and 45, and the amount of testosterone produced continues to decline gradually as women age. While menopause itself has no direct effect on testosterone production, surgical removal of the ovaries can cause an abrupt drop in this hormone and accompanying sexual desire.
Secondly, when estrogen levels decrease, women have more hot flashes and night sweats , plus they experience changes in the vagina and vulva which can all wreak havoc on their sex lives. With little or no estrogen, vaginal walls become dry, thin and less elastic, causing pain during penetration. Diminished blood flow to the genital area means it can take much longer for a woman to feel aroused. The anticipation of painful uterine contractions with orgasm can be a turnoff. A leakage of urine some women experience during sex can prompt them to avoid it.
Sounds terrible doesn’t it? The good news is that there are things that can help. Here are a few of the treatments that doctors sometimes recommend.
-The drug Estratest, which combines estrogen and testosterone can sometimes solve the problem.
-An alternative that works for some is vaginal application of estrogen via a cream, ring or tablet, which keeps the hormone from passing through the liver and diminishes the amount that enters the bloodstream.
-Some doctors recommend a testosterone cream which is applied to the thigh to help improve sexual desire
- Gynecologists concerned about safety are more likely to recommend a non-oil-based lubricant like Replens, K-Y Long-Lasting Vaginal Moisturizer and Astroglide.
-While a Viagra-like drug is not yet an option for women, use of the antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin at 300 milligrams a day) may improve sexual arousal and satisfaction in women who are not depressed.
-Daily Exercise can also improve general well being and sexual desire.
Before starting any kind of treatment you should discuss options openly with your doctor to determine what is right for you. photo by: cowsaymoo