What is menopause?
Menopause marks the final phase of the female reproductive life cycle and is defined as the date in which the last natural menstrual period occurs.
It normally doesn’t occur all of a sudden, and that is why we usually wait one year without menstruation to be sure it has. The process begins with a gradual decrease in the production of sex hormones, called perimenopause, which leads to the cessation of reproductive and menstrual functions. In this phase, menstrual irregularities are quite frequent.
Typically, menopause happens between 45 and 55 years of age, and the transition to menopause starts between 3 to 7 years before that.
What happens when estrogen decreases?
Menopause begins when the ovaries stop producing or produce very little estrogen, which leads to the end of the menstrual cycle, even though menopause is only officially designated one year after the last menstrual period.
When estrogen decreases, other common symptoms may occur, such as:
- Fluctuating moods
- Fatigue and insomnia
- Sweating and hot flashes
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle and joint pain or discomfort
- Vaginal dryness
Possible sexual complications during perimenopause
A drop in sex hormones during perimenopause doesn’t necessarily lead to a lower sex drive. The pleasure derived from sex depends not only on hormones but also on self-confidence and inner peace.
In addition, it’s been noticed that by the time menopause starts, many people have already reached their career goals, so they are exposed to less stress, which is good for their sex life. Also, there is no need for contraception, which can also have a positive effect on some people’s sex life.
However, for some, this drop in sex hormones can cause vaginal dryness, which can lead to vaginal tissue becoming less elastic and thin and possibly cause pain during intercourse. Often, vaginal dryness is accompanied by a lower libido because of fear of pain during sex.
Tips for having better sex after menopause
Here are some tips for having an enjoyable sex life after menopause.
1. Lubricants and moisturizers
One of the best ways to decrease dryness during sex is to increase moisture with a personal lubricant that can be applied to the genitals.
2. Hormone replacement therapy
Postmenopausal hormone therapy (PMHT) may help eliminate estrogen deficiency after menopause. The medications involved in PMHT contain analogs of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone and can be used orally or through the skin and vagina.
The bottom line
It’s important to remember that menopause is just another phase of life, and the good news is that many of its symptoms can be managed.
Here are some additional points to keep in mind:
- It’s possible to get a sexually transmitted disease at any age, so it’s worth it for people with multiple partners to use condoms even after their 50th birthday.
- During the first year after the last period, it’s important to use contraception to prevent unintended pregnancy, as ovulation may spontaneously occur during this time.
Content created in association with EBCOG, the European Board & College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology