Let’s talk about sex.
More specifically, let’s talk about sex after menopause. I’m still scratching my head wondering what the heck happened. Things were going great all through the pre-menopausal issues. Hot flashes? Check. I had them. Night sweats? A few, but I could probably count them on one hand. Sex? Absolutely! No problem there. And then, WHAM! Things went from pleasure to pain about as fast as you could say, “hormonal.”
There we were, empty-nesters. We could do what we wanted, when we wanted, where we wanted. Woohoo! And then my body revolted. Seemingly out of nowhere sex became painful. Like a seven on the one-to-ten pain scale. Not fair. Not fair at all.
Our hormones go on roller coaster ride during “The Change.” And we thought pregnancy was crazy! Estrogen and progesterone levels decrease during and after menopause and wreak all kinds of havoc on our bodies.
Feeling a little cranky lately? Hormones, or the lack of them, may be the culprit. Anxiety, depression and insomnia can come from hormonal changes and make us feel different than our usual selves. We may experience thinning or less lustrous hair, weight gain, muscle loss (which also contributes to weight gain) and a whole host of other fabulous symptoms.
There’s a Word for That.
But we’re talking about sex. We’re talking about painful sex. There’s actually a word for it. Of course there is. It’s called dyspareunia. Dys = bad, difficult. Pareunia = sexual intercourse. so literally, bad sex. Really? I think I’ll stick with “painful sex.” To me, that’s considerably different than bad sex. The point is, the fact that’s it’s been given a name lets us know it’s not uncommon. In fact, as many as half of women may experience some level of discomfort during sex after menopause.
The drop in estrogen causes the vaginal tissues to become tighter, thinner and as dry as the Sahara. The friction caused by a lack of lubrication and the tightness of the vaginal wall can make sex, well, not what it used to be. And the anticipation of potential pain is not exactly on the hit list for foreplay. It’s not boding well for a night of romance.
What’s a Girl to Do?
Fortunately, there are options. My gynecologist had a couple of ideas. One was a vaginal cream with estrogen to increase that hormone and its benefits. That may work well, and it may work well for you. The idea of introducing a steroid, even one I used to have in greater supply, makes me nervous. The research suggests there may be side effects (also here) I don’t want to risk.
I asked for another option and he recommended Lidocaine. You’re probably familiar with this one, or its cousin, Novacaine. Like Novacaine, Lidocaine is a numbing agent, but it is applied topically. Sensitivity is reduced, but the pain is gone. It’s a trade-off I’ll take.
Other ideas to restore the joy of sex: lubricant. I’m a fan of Woo for Play. Woo for Play is a coconut oil lubricant which also includes beeswax, vanilla essence and stevia. And that’s it – four very natural ingredients I don’t have to worry about. You don’t have to be post-menopausal to love this stuff. It feels good, smells good, tastes good. . . Enough already. Get some. You’ll thank me later.
A personal moisturizer. The idea is to moisturize the vaginal area daily, like you moisturize the rest of your body. The ingredients are different, of course, but the benefits are similar. Again, in this particular area of our bodies we want something organic. I haven’t tried this yet but it’s on order.
Very simple hygiene. Basically, warm water. This is a little difficult to embrace but I get it. Soaps, body washes and bubble baths contain chemicals that can dry and irritate. Water is water. Rinse until you feel fresh.
Here’s one you’ll like: More foreplay. Give yourself time to relax and enjoy the moment. This will reduce any anxiety, allow your body to help with the lubrication process, and, of course, enhance your overall pleasure! Andy and I used to joke that men are like microwaves and women are slow-cookers. As men get older they become more like slow-cookers, too. A little more pre-game warm-up will produce great benefits for you both!
Last but certainly not least – more sex. Like foreplay above, more sex keeps those benefits going. And they’re some really good benefits!
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Anything tried and true in your sex life? Let’s chat!
Thanks for reading!