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Sex, Libido & the Menopause

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As Andy Rooney once confessed, older women are far sexier than their younger counterparts.
"Her libido is stronger because her fear of pregnancy is gone ... and her lovemaking is honed."

A compliment to be sure, this acquired confidence may, in fact, only apply to a small cohort of women, especially as we enter menopause. According to a 2008 study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, almost half of all menopausal women experience a decrease in libido. What's more, is that only 25 percent of these women report being concerned about this drop in sexual desire.

So what's the reason behind the midlife turn-off? Low estrogen levels responsible for other notorious menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and decreased sleep also contribute to altered arousal thresholds and overall interest in sex. During menopause, a woman may not respond to the same turn-ons or triggers that she had only years before, and all this is normal.

In addition to a baseline decrease in libido, other factors complicate the issue. Decreased estrogen also decreases blood supply to the vagina, creating a drier and potentially more irritated environment. Issues with bladder control and sleep disturbance can also interfere, as can depression and other stressors that may arise around the menopause.

But, like Rooney so keenly picked up on, not all women experience this decline. Some women, in fact, report an increase in libido that might have something to do with an acquired confidence over time.

For others however, the Cleveland Clinic suggests the following tips for improving sex drive. Water-soluble lubricants like Astroglide or K-Y Jelly can improve vaginal dryness, and distraction techniques to relax can decrease anxiety that may arise during this transitional period.

While the research to support using hormone replacement to increase sexual drive during menopause is a somewhat conflicting, some doctors do prescribe combined estrogen and progesterone pills for this purpose. Like with hormone replacement for other menopausal symptoms however, you should discuss the length of time using hormones and risks/benefits of use with your care provider first.

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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