Sex is an important part in many women’s lives and plays a key role in every romantic relationship. While there’s a preconceived notion that our sex life disappears after a certain age, that doesn’t have to be the case. Our sex life just looks different as we age.
There are changes many women undergo as we get older that have an impact on how we respond to sexual activity, including loss of desire, pain with sex, sexual function, stamina, and hormone levels.
While these changes may make engaging in enjoyable sex more difficult, it’s important women understand the changes they’re going through and learn how to overcome any challenges to continue having a happy and healthy sex life.
Because of ageism, it’s assumed that when people hit a certain age, they stop having sex. However, this is far from the truth considering 65% of seniors between the ages of 65 and 80 report still being interested in sex or are sexually active. Sex does not have an age limit, but it’s important for women to be aware of the changes that typically occur to our bodies that can impact our sex lives.
Many physical changes first appear when women begin going through menopause and estrogen levels begin to decrease, creating vaginal dryness, lack of energy and changes in mood, all of which influences desire and sex drive. Anorgasmia, or difficulty reaching an orgasm after stimulation, can also be something women experience during menopause.
Additional changes women should look out for include:
Various medical conditions including arthritis, dementia, high blood pressure, chronic stress, diabetes, anxiety, or depression can also impact an individual’s sex life as they age. The medications prescribed for these conditions can further impact libido, so it’s important to talk to your medical provider if you believe this is the case.
There are some issues women over 60 should look out for if sexually active. If you’re experiencing less intense orgasms or general arousal issues, you may want to get your heart checked out. These are two tell-tale signs of cardiovascular disease, which often develops 7 to 10 years later in women than in men and is still a major cause of death in women over the age of 65 years.
Another health concern to be mindful of is sexually transmitted infections. While pregnancy isn’t a factor anymore once a woman reaches menopause or opts to receive a hysterectomy or tubal ligation, women may no longer feel the pressure to use a condom.
However, just because you can’t get pregnant, doesn’t mean you can stop practicing safe sex. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the number of cases of gonorrhea rose 164% among Americans aged 55 and older between 2014 and 2018, while cases of syphilis rose 120% in this population, and chlamydia rose 86%.
Getting tested when engaging in intercourse with new or multiple partners is highly recommended to provide peace of mind for yourself and your sexual partners.
While vaginal dryness and pain during sex can deter women from engaging in sex, there are a range of treatment options to alleviate discomfort and make sex enjoyable again. There are vaginal estrogen suppositories such as Dehydroepiandrosterone, which are effective in treating vulva and vaginal dryness.
Women can also use hyaluronic acid suppositories that serve as a lubricant to retain moisture and prevent dryness. Another option is local hormone therapy, which often consists of a vaginal cream or suppository. This treatment is optimal in getting vaginal tissue replenished to build up the lining of the vagina and help create lubrication and is a much safer option than hormone replacement therapy.
Low libido can be caused by life changes including menopause and illness, on top of psychological causes such as mental health issues, stress, and poor body image. However, there are ways women can overcome these obstacles and increase their sex drive.
Women are encouraged to talk to a sex therapist or counselor who is well-versed on sexual issues and can provide education on sexual response techniques. A sex therapist can also provide reading materials or couples exercise recommendations that can help increase feelings of sexual desire.
For those that are on antidepressants, switching to bupropion (Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL) usually improves sex drive and can be prescribed for women with sexual interest/arousal disorder. Engaging in exercise, openly communicating with your partner, and reducing your intake of alcohol and drugs, can all enhance your sex drive and improve your overall health.
Additional ways to manage a healthy sex life throughout your life center around your needs and relationship with your partner, including:
Intimacy is an important part of any romantic partnership through all stages of life. Although the physical changes our bodies undergo as we get older force us to enjoy sex differently, women are still able to maintain a healthy and enjoyable sex life by paying attention to their bodies and making adjustments that can improve sexual function and desire.
How has your sex life changed since menopause? Which issue has been the most persistent? What has your doctor recommended? Does it work? Please share with the community!
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