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How to take care of your sexual wellbeing during menopause

Menopause is the natural biological process characterised by the cessation or stopping of a woman's menstrual cycle, marking the end of fertility.

The general onset is observed in middle-aged women, i.e., between 40 to 50 years of age.

As ageing advances, the reproductive cycle slows down and prepares to stop.

Ovaries begin to age and produce fewer reproductive hormones altering the menstrual cycle.

The body undergoes several associated changes in response to fluctuating levels of oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinising hormone (LH).

These hormonal disturbances stimulate several physical, psychological and emotional changes having varied outcomes as the body adapts to the changing hormonal environment.

Physical changes:

  • Irregular menstruation
  • Weight gain
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Drier and thinner skin and hair

Emotional changes:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Stress and tension.
  • Anger and irritability.
  • A lack of motivation and difficulty concentrating.

Other associated changes:

  • Worsening of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Changes in libido (sex drive)
  • A loss of energy and insomnia.
  • Memory lapses
  • Headaches

Sexual wellbeing during and after menopause

All women experience menopause differently, and many women experience changes in their sex life as they go through menopause.

The loss of oestrogen and testosterone following menopause induces multiple changes in a woman's body and influences sexual function.

Also, lower levels of oestrogen can cause a drop in blood supply to the vagina, which can affect vaginal lubrication, causing the vagina to be too dry for comfortable sex.

Moreover, other menopausal symptoms, like bladder control problems, sleep disturbances, depression or anxiety, stress, medications, and other health concerns, also affect the sexual well-being of the women experiencing menopause.

While the hormonal alteration of menopause may modify the physical and emotional aspects of sexual well-being, specific measures can assist in overcoming adversities and improving sex life. These include:

Raising libido

Changing your attitude towards, sex along with talking to your partner about the same, is a good way to start.

A welcoming attitude towards conversations around sex, especially after a certain age, is looked at as taboo. So it's important to change that mindset for yourself, and well as for your partner.

Good foreplay helps increase lubrication

Frequent vaginal intercourse helps maintain blood supply

Find alternative methods of to increase intimacy

Besides the suggestions mentioned above, the suggestions below will also aid you to ensure your sexual wellness stays intact:

Manage your depression

Depression is increasingly common in mid-life and may notoriously dampen desire. Seek medical help if you notice any symptoms of depression.

Opt for alternate medication

Certain drugs used for treating old-age ailments, like diabetes and hypertension, may also adversely affect sexual well-being. Ask your physician to help find an alternative medicine if your medication lowers your libido.

Stay healthy

It is essential to stay fit and healthy through regular exercise and healthy eating as it improves your overall health, which boosts your sexual well-being.

Relieve your stress and anxiety

Job pressures, family responsibilities, lack of privacy, and worries about children or ageing parents build stress, negatively affecting overall well-being.

Limit alcohol

Although a glass of wine might enhance your libido, heavy drinking may act reversely on your sexual health.

Keep a check on your health conditions

Diseases affecting blood flow and nerve function, like diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis, may reduce sexual responsiveness. Thus, it is important to seek timely medical assistance.

Treat vaginal atrophy

Your physician may advise water-based and longer-lasting silicone-based lubricants to make penetration less painful.

Topical oestrogen in the form of a cream, a suppository, or a ring can be used to treat vaginal atrophy as it releases the hormone to help plump vaginal tissues and aid lubrication.

Get physical therapy

Physical therapy in the form of exercises and massage may help relax and stretch tissues in the pelvic area and reduce the pain.

Orthopaedic problems may cause pain and limit your sexual activities - changes in positions may help.

Although sexual problems can be hard to discuss, it is always good to consult your doctor. Your doctor may refer you and your partner to a health professional specialising in sexual dysfunction.

The therapist may advise sexual counselling individually or with your partner.

Collaborative measures involving medical aids, professional guidance, and counselling can help deal with these biological changes and enhance the quality of life.

So, even though there may be some physical and mental hardships during menopause, a woman can still enjoy satisfactory sex life.

This article was originally published on IOL.

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