Perimenopause changes everything. I mean everything. Our bodies, our brains, our moods, our patience, and even our sex drive. It’s so incredibly common for our sex lives to change during perimenopause and yet it’s one more thing that we don’t talk about. Not with our friends, our partners and even our doctors. I guess it’s just way too embarrassing. Let’s throw the shame and embarrassment aside. If you’ve notice things changing – your libido is down, sex is painful, you’re vagina is itchy and burning – then we need to talk. Because you shouldn’t lose hope. And you should know that you can still have great sex in perimenopause.
Consider me your Vaginal Fairy Godmother. With all the info and tips you need to start having great sex again. But first, let’s look at what’s happening to your body and hormones and how this impacts your sex life.
Your Hormones and Your Libido
If you’re in your 30s, 40s or 50s and find that your not that interested in sex, there’s nothing wrong with you or your desire, also known as libido. Your hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone are changing dramatically and these fluctuations can impact your sexual desire. This is completely normal. There’s nothing wrong with you. In fact, studies have shown that over 50% of individuals in midlife report having low libido at some point.
To add insult to injury, your plunging hormones can also make it harder for you to have an orgasm.
Your Hormones and Your Vagina
Your hormones play a significant role in how you feel ‘down there’ during menopause, and it can lead to some uncomfortable situations. Common vaginal and vulva symptoms of menopause include burning, dryness, itching, and even pain.
Your hormone levels affect vaginal moisture, so a decrease in estrogen can result in dryness or less lubrication. And I don’t need to tell you, this dryness makes intimacy a lot less enjoyable. Itching is often a result of the thinning and dryness of the vaginal walls, again because of the drop in estrogen. Vaginal soreness or throbbing is caused by inflammation or puffiness of your labia. And that’s not all. Other issues like urinary tract infections (UTIs) are also common during perimenopause.
With all this happening, it’s no wonder you don’t have sex on your mind.
Your Emotions and Your Libido
As you know, perimenopause brings with it an emotional roller coaster ride. One minute your up and the next you’re in tears. It’s a lot to deal with. And even though it may baffle your partner, as a woman, you know how all these emotions impact your libido. Sadness, stress, anxiety and worry have a lot to say about how you feel about getting intimate. Even worse, feeling sad or worried about sex can drop your libido even lower.
And it doesn’t stop there. Your overall health habits matter when it comes to your sex drive. Things like what you eat, how active you are, and the amount of sleep you get can influence it. Or if you’re dealing with chronic health issues like ongoing pain, autoimmune conditions, or diabetes – they can play a role in your sexual desire too.
Tips to Great Sex in Perimenopause
But don’t despair, because I’m here to tell you that you can still have great sex in perimenopause. Here’s how:
- Moisturize – If you’re dealing with vaginal dryness, moisturize. Like daily. Just like you do your face. And like your face cream, there are a million lubricant options to choose from: water-based, silicone-based, oil-based (last longer but can be a little tricky to clean up) and even natural ones with minimal ingredients. Always be sure to read the label to check for any added flavors or sensations – they’ll probably cause irritation. And it’s always a good idea to do a skin test before using any new lubricant during the act.
- Kegels – Kegels can not only help with urinary incontinence (a symptom of perimenopause), by increasing the strength of the muscles and your awareness of them, Kegels can help reduce pain and help some women achieve orgasm. Before you get started, you might not be doing them correctly. Our podcast guest, Pelvic Floor Therapist Kathleen White, explains it as “pretend you’re in an elevator trying to hold in a fart”. It’s that simple!
- Spice Things Up – Has your sex life got caught in a rut? Maybe it’s time to spice things up. Consider a little role play or some sexy lingerie to boost your confidence. Maybe a new sex toy or position. The key is to have a little fun and adventure in the bedroom.
- Communicate – Women know so very little about perimenopause. Doctors know almost just as little. So how on earth is your partner supposed to understand what’s going on with your hormones, body and libido. Have an open and honest conversation about how you’re feeling so that you’re both on the same page. And so people aren’t making assumptions and assigning blame. If it’s too hard for you to talk about, why not email them a copy of this article? It could help get the conversation started.
- Relax – I know it’s hard to find a little “Me Time,” but the truth is taking time to improve your mental well-being can work wonders for your libido. Simplify your workload, indulge in self-care, maintain a balanced fitness routine, eat nutritious whole foods, or practice meditation.
- Sex Therapists – Maybe it’s a sex therapist you need? They’re experts in helping with various sexual challenges, including a dip in desire, difficulty reaching orgasm, or discomfort during intimacy. A sex therapist is skilled in addressing sexual dysfunctions stemming from psychological causes and can also offer guidance on life and relationship matters linked to sexuality. Sessions can be solo or with your romantic or sexual partner(s), focusing on enhancing your sexual journey.
- Estrogen – Localized estrogen in the form of a vaginal ring, cream, or tablet, can help to boost vaginal tone, elasticity, and blood flow, and improve lubrication. However, the suitability of hormone therapy hinges on a lot of factors, including your age, health risk profile, and the specific hormone type and dosage. It’s also important to consider whether estrogen is administered solo or combined with a progestin. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider to see if this option is right for you.
Remember this: perimenopause isn’t a pause on passion, but a new chapter waiting to be written with excitement and endless pleasure. You can still have orgasms and great sex, even in perimenopause.