There are plenty of common misconceptions and myths that surface when we think of sex mid-life and beyond. Sure, our bodies aren’t as spry or agile as they used to be, but sex doesn’t and shouldn’t need to have an expiration date. In fact, according to You magazine’s 2018 Sex Survey, a clear majority of women in their 40s and 50s are happier with their sex lives now than they were in their 20s. In order to maintain a healthy and happy sex life, it’s important to be aware of the changes your body goes through in order to make some simple adjustments and stay ahead of the game. Here are some not-so-obvious ways sex might change after 40.
Whether you’re currently undergoing or struggling through perimenopause/menopause, you’re likely to experience dryness down there. This is a result of dropping hormone levels, namely estrogen, that previously kept the vaginal tissue lubricated. The decline may also cause thinning of the vaginal walls, making them more susceptible to inflammation or tearing. Fortunately, lubricants are a quick an easy solution and will alleviate discomfort during intercourse.
You may feel a drop or spike in libido
While it may seem like for many women, vaginal dryness may inhibit their desire to engage in sex, a lot of women actually experience a higher sex drive during this time. “Sometimes in that perimenopausal time when you’re approaching menopause but you haven’t lost your period for a full year (and this can sometimes take upwards of 10 years) women will have a high testosterone level, which translates into a high libido,” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine. If you’re feeling the opposite effect, even though you’re not experiencing dryness, speak to your healthcare professional.
You may feel more inclined to experiment
You already know the ropes, and doing the same thing for 20 plus years may feel boring for you. As a result, you may notice a heightened interest in trying new things. “Couples in their 40s are having some of the best sex of their lives—they have more permission and motivation to explore different aspects of sexuality,” says Shannon Chavez, PsyD, CST, a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist in Los Angeles. “Couples are more open to exploring at this age due to sexual confidence, a stronger sense of sexual self, desire to make sex more playful, or feeling deeper emotional bonding for more meaningful and passionate sex.”
Having a healthy heart is even more important now
Before you go overboard, it’s important to also remember to maintain good cardiovascular health through regular exercise. “A healthy cardiovascular system is essential to sexual functioning,” says Gracie Landes, a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sexual therapist in New York City. It’s not a bad bonus that the release of endorphins during exercise has been shown to also boost libido!
You place a higher value on sex
Yes, intercourse might be great (possibly even better than your younger years), but now that you’ve passed the mark of figuring out what you physically want (and hopefully, what your partner wants), sex will be more emotionally fulfilling now that it’s driven less by hormonal urges and more about the desire to share yourself with the person you love.