Your hormones are on a rollercoaster around the time of menopause – and that can seriously affect your sex drive. On top of that, your self-confidence might have taken a dive: maybe you no longer see yourself as attractive, particularly if menopause is causing physical changes such as weight gain around your middle. Maybe you have difficulty recognising yourself in the mirror now. Or perhaps hot flushes, night sweats or other symptoms mean you’re feeling below par. Is it any wonder, then, that loss of libido is such a common symptom of menopause?
It’s a familiar pattern: over time, your sex life becomes less of a priority, and before you know it, it’s been months – but it’s not hard to do something about it, and it’s important in so many ways. Sex not only has a huge effect on your life (your health, mood, self-esteem), but it also affects you as part of a couple.
What causes loss of libido?
Falling hormone levels can affect your sex drive as well as causing the walls of your vagina to become thinner, dryer and inflamed, which can lead to discomfort, particularly during sex.
- Oestrogen plays a vital role in female sexuality, in increasing sensation, assisting in the production of vaginal lubrication and maintaining the health of vaginal tissue. Around the time of menopause, falling levels of oestrogen lead to a reduction in blood supply to the vagina, which then negatively affects lubrication and can make intercourse painful.
- Testosterone is the primary hormone driving sexual desire in women – although our levels are much lower than those found in men – and it’s produced in the ovaries, the adrenal glands and the peripheral tissues. Progesterone is key to the production of testosterone in the body, so falling levels of one can negatively affect the other.
It’s worth mentioning that not all women experience a loss of libido: in fact, on average, most report an increased sex drive after the onset of menopause. But if you’re not one of these, there are things you can do to help get your sex life back on track.
Tips for restoring your sex drive
Talk about it
Loss of libido is not a topic many women feel comfortable talking about as there’s such a stigma around it. Although it won’t affect all women during menopause, it does impact approximately one in three. Chances are, some of your close friends are going through the very same thing. Talk to your partner about it, too. Though it can be a difficult subject to broach, communication is the key to understanding, even if it feels uncomfortable at first. Once you get over the initial awkwardness, it can result in a rewarding conversation about how you are feeling and the effects your symptoms are having on your relationship – for both of you.
Take time out and treat yourself
Hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety and fatigue can make sex the last thing on your mind. But try taking some time out to de–stress and relax. Don’t give up on yourself. Schedule a date. You can get your mojo back.
“But isn’t testosterone only for men?” No. Women have testosterone too, and like oestrogen, it controls many of our functions, including libido – so falling levels can cause a dip in your sex drive. In order to get a prescription for testosterone (usually in gel form) in the UK, you’ll need to be referred to a menopause clinic by your GP. And you needn’t worry that it will make you grow a beard. In fact, testosterone can boost energy levels and make you feel sexier.
Use a lubricant
One of the first things you need to do to bring back your sex drive is eliminate pain. For this, I’d recommend using a lubricant. With falling oestrogen levels, the vaginal tissues become much more sensitive, so you need a product that’s pH-friendly, non-drying, hormone- and paraben-free. My Motion Lotion lubricants are organic, vegan and environmentally sustainable.
Exercise – with your partner
I know, it’s the last thing you want to do if you’re exhausted from lack of sleep and all the other menopause symptoms, but why not try couples’ yoga: it’s slow, stress-free and will help you stretch and relax. You could also try dancing with your partner, as it increases intimacy with lots of eye contact, touch and, in some cases, plenty of hip action!