While intercourse after menopause can be good, don’t expect it to be the same type of intercourse you were having in your 20s, says Chris Kraft, Ph.D., director of clinical services at the Sex and Gender Clinic in the department of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “This is also a stage of life with a lot of changes that can affect your intimacy.” Being aware of the changes that impact this part of your body and mind will help you feel more prepared if you hit any speed bumps in the sheets.
Why you may have less desire to be intimate than before:
Your estrogen level will decrease drastically during menopause, as well as in perimenopause. This has a huge impact on your sexual function. According to Kraft, “It can lower desire and make it harder for you to become aroused. It can also make the vaginal canal less stretchy and you may experience dryness, which can cause intercourse to be painful.” Apparently, more than a third of women report having sexual difficulties, from lack of interest in sex to trouble having an orgasm.
Some women who choose not to participate in general hormone replacement therapy (HRT) but still have issues with dryness and discomfort have found success using vaginal estrogen treatments, which can return some moisture and elasticity to the vagina.
Other factors include chronic health issues that come with age, injuries causing depleted energy, and a lowered body image.
Is it normal to have little-to-no intimate life after menopause?
Just because you aren’t having intercourse, it doesn’t mean your relationship is failing. It is completely normal. “About a third of long-term couples don’t have sex or have sex only occasionally. But they don’t necessarily consider that a problem. It’s just where their relationships have evolved,” explains Kraft. “They do other things that are intimate that they enjoy like cuddling, sharing a bed, and laughing together. And they’re happy.”
He states that intercourse in later years often isn’t as pleasurable for couples as it used to be because of bodily changes such as vaginal dryness and erectile dysfunction. This can be misconstrued from what you might see in the media or drug prescription commercials.
But what if I want to keep the intimacy in my relationship alive?
“If giving up on your sex life sounds terrible, don’t worry: Many couples remain sexually active throughout their senior years. Just be aware that what feels good can change. Women often quit being sexual when getting aroused or having an orgasm becomes difficult, but what can help is more mental engagement and physical stimulation,” says Kraft. Because blood fills the genitals more slowly after menopause arousal may take longer, but it does not mean it is impossible. Kraft recommends doing what is best for you and your partner and letting go of what you think everyone else is doing. Communication is key and living and overall healthy life can contribute to intimacy at this stage of life.