Finally! Menopause brings many freedoms such as no concerns about periods and birth control. With the life changes that usually accompany menopause such as the “empty nest” one would think that this would be the ideal time to reconnect with your partner and reestablish that intimacy you both crave. However there are many changes that menopause brings that present new challenges to this intimacy.
The first challenge that women face is the vanishing libido. As annoying as periods were the hormones that caused those periods to happen also help you to feel “in the mood”…at least for a few days each month. Now those are gone and libido no longer naturally happens. You actually have to actively think about it! A woman experiences significant changes both physically and emotionally during menopause and this causes stress; this stress further drives down your libido. Because of this, it is extremely important to talk with your partner about these changes. Although there is no medical treatment that can restore your libido, there are some things that can help. You should see a medical professional to make sure that you are healthy, and it is very reassuring to talk with an objective person about what you are feeling and what it is normal. Find something that helps you feel better about yourself and the wonderful things that your body can do: start an exercise program, consider yoga and/or mediation, or take a class in something you’ve always been interested in but never had the time for; learn how to cook healthier food. Things like this will reduce the stress on your body that menopause causes and can help you to find more balance.
The other challenge that many women face is the change in gynecologic health that declining estrogen level brings. For many women, all of the sudden sex becomes painful—so painful that they stop having it. Obviously this is a major issue if one wishes to remain intimate. Over 50% of post-menopausal women experience painful intercourse. Fortunately there are ways to help with this problem. The first sign that women experience is dryness. Vaginal dryness can be helped with lubricants (I highly recommend that women use the most gentle and simple product as possible); options are coconut oil, olive oil, and silicone based over the counter products. There are many options available and your health care provider can help you with some additional recommendations. Although helpful for some, this is not enough for many women. Another option is estrogen therapy locally to the vagina. Topical vaginal estrogen therapy is felt to be much safer for women than systemic hormonal replacement therapy and can be helpful in restoring the ability to have intercourse without significant pain. Another new medical option is a daily pill that is not an estrogen per se but acts like estrogen to the vaginal tissues. It can be quite expensive however and there are some additional risks associated with it that should be discussed. The last option is a new novel procedure that many women call “life-changing”. The “Mona Lisa Touch” is an innovative in-office fractional laser procedure that restores gynecologic health. It is a virtually painless procedure that requires no anesthesia and takes less than 5 minutes to perform. Three treatments spaced 6 weeks apart are necessary: many women experience relief after the very first treatment with even greater results after the second and third therapy. This procedure provides lasting results and only a single “touch up” is recommended every 1-2 years. It has been clinically proven, is FDA cleared and has been used in over thousands of women with a greater than 85% success rate. All without the need for continued hormonal therapy.
In short, menopause does present many challenges in maintaining intimacy but these challenges can be overcome so that you and your partner can nurture and strengthen your relationship for many more years. Menopause is just the beginning of the second part of your life!