During perimenopause your body is going through some pretty intense hormonal changes and you may notice effects on your sex life. But don’t panic – it doesn’t mean you’ll never have great sex again. Here are some top tips on how to handle the transition.
Perimenopause can affect your body in many ways and may cause changes in sexual arousal, desire and physical comfort during sex – as well as affecting your emotions and confidence. The effects may be subtle at first – perhaps your sex drive has dropped or you don’t get as wet as usual – and you may not even realise at first that hormones are the cause. But this time of life should be all about experimentation, time for yourself and new experiences. With a little preparation and focusing on things you can control, there’s no reason why you can’t have great sex during perimenopause and beyond.
Sexual changes during perimenopause
Common sexual symptoms of perimenopause include loss of libido, vaginal dryness, reduced sensation and weaker orgasms. Lower levels of estrogen affect blood flow to the vagina which can lead to vaginal dryness and painful sex. Testosterone helps to regulate sexual desire, and levels of this drop. As we age, our pelvic floor muscles can weaken, causing bladder issues. Not to mention all the other symptoms – hot flushes, night sweats, lack of sleep, reduced energy levels, mood swings and anxiety – which can all affect your libido.
Sex educator Shan Boodram says it’s helpful to look at desire as a three-pronged system – first is drive. During perimenopause, some hormones are spiking, and others are slowing down. There’s less blood flow. All will affect your libido. You can’t fully control this stage (even with HRT, which we’ll discuss in detail in another post), so be patient and accepting. Second, what’s your belief system? How do you feel about yourself? Do you believe you’re sexy and worthy of desire? You can work on that. And third is motivation – what is going on around you? How does your partner make you feel? What can you add to your toolbox to make you feel sexy and motivated to enjoy sex?
Bearing this in mind, here are some changes you can make to keep your sex life on track.
1) Masturbate more
Use it or lose it. Dawn Thomson, energy psychologist and relationships coach, says: “I did worry that a dip in libido was happening to me, but I decided that menopause didn’t have to mean the death of my sex life. I took radical steps to masturbate every other day, if not every day. My body’s responding differently but delightfully.” Take some time alone to explore your vagina and vulva and work out what turns you on. Masturbate more to help you feel less stressed and sleep better – crucial at this time.
Talk to close partner/s, family and/or friends about how you’re feeling about perimenopause, what changes you’re noticing, and share your experiences – a problem shared is a problem halved. Not bottling things up will take a weight off your mind and keep you feeling connected. If you and your partner tend to focus on penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex, explain that you need to slow things down and focus more on non-penetrative sex and other forms of intimacy. Give yourself some space for experimentation and different kinds of sex play.
3) Develop your toolbox
As Shan Boodram says, what can you add to your toolkit to make you feel sexy and motivated to enjoy sex? There’s lots of innovation in the sex tech/wellness industry, so plenty of new toys, exercisers and products designed to help during menopause. Ask your doctor about localised estrogen for vaginal dryness – a vaginal ring, cream, or tablet can help increase natural lubrication and encourage blood flow. Experiment with different lubricants and arousal oils – silicone lubes ‘cling’ to the vagina, which can make sex feel more comfortable for longer. Buy some special bedding to help with night sweats.
Your imagination is your biggest sex organ. Read fabulous erotica and watch different kinds of porn. Is there something you’re curious about that you’d love to try? Shannon Chavez, a psychologist and certified sex therapist, says “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. Couples may try kink, role play, watch erotica together, open their relationship or try Tantra in their 40s. 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.”
4) Exercise more and eat well
A healthy cardiovascular system is vital for sexual functioning. Regular exercise helps your sexual performance because it keeps your heart in shape. Aim for 30 minutes a day if you’re able – it makes you feel sexy and gives you the energy to be more intense in bed. It also reduces stress levels and increases happy hormones. If you’re feeling good about your body, you’ll be sexually confident. Get more sun – it stops the production of melatonin, the sleepy hormone – so means potentially more sexual desire. Eat well – especially those foods that help with blood flow – onions and garlic, chilli, peppers, banana, oily fish.
Great sex during perimenopause takes some thought, planning and effort – it doesn’t always just happen. Laura Berman, sex and relationship therapist, says it can be “the result of a loving, committed couple tending to their relationship. That means everything from romantic getaways to date nights to daily kisses to making sure that you take ownership of the energy you bring into the relationship.”
For those who aren’t in committed relationships, it can mean working with your partner/s to build the mood and arousal levels rather than launching straight into penetrative sex as you may have done in the past, and spending quality time with yourself so you know how your body works and feel sexy.
With a few positive changes, there’s no reason why you can’t continue to have great sex during perimenopause and beyond.
I’m Nicci – a copywriter, author (mostly sex books!), consultant, and strategist. I create content that empowers brands and tells stories. Sign up for my weekly newsletter: The Shift. – exploring new ways of living and working. Community for freelancers & entrepreneurs. More about me at www.niccitalbot.com.