Along with hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep disturbances, reduced female libido (sex drive) is one of the most distressing symptoms associated with menopause. Yet an article published in the prestigious British Medical Journal indicates there is no way to predict which symptoms may affect you.
What you do have in common with other women experiencing menopause is the fact that your ovaries are making less of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. It's no surprise, then, that you may be experiencing a loss of female libido. And this could continue well into your postmenopausal years, according to the North American Menopause Society's Menopause Guidebook.
On the other hand, no woman going through menopause has exactly the same experience or symptoms. The U.S. National Institute on Aging, for example, has research that finds the female libido is not affected by menopause at all, and some women may actually feel sexier after menopause.
"If you're not part of the minority with severe symptoms, menopause can be a very freeing thing. You don't have to worry about fertility issues, and it can be a time of renewal," says Linda Weiner, MSW, a sex therapist and licensed clinical social worker based in St. Louis.
How Menopause Affects the Female Libido
As you go through menopause, you may experience disturbed sleep, vaginal dryness, and psychological changes. The upheaval of sleep patterns caused by these symptoms can leave you less interested in sex, the Menopause Society's guidebook says.
Decreased blood supply to the vagina can lead to vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal wall lining (atrophy). This can make sexual intercourse uncomfortable and even painful, hardly a recipe for sexual arousal. In addition, your body is producing less of the male sex hormone androgen, which is thought to be associated with desire.
Coping With Decreased Female Libido
If you're experiencing a loss of libido, you know it's much more than a physical issue. You may feel guilty, frustrated, and depressed. If you do, you're not alone, "Some women experience a sense of loss and grieving. Their bodies are changing, and to complicate matters, this sometimes correlates with the beginning of empty-nest syndrome," Weiner says.
But you don't have to keep your feelings to yourself. Weiner recommends that you express your concerns to your partner and together figure out how to make your sex life work. It's really important that both partners read up on this, and it's important for husbands and partners to understand the physical and emotional changes you're going through. Ask your partner for what you need; maybe it's more wooing or dating. "If you need the fan on full-power during sex, so be it. Find ways to overcome things that get in the way of desire or don't contribute to it," Weiner says.
You and your partner may also want to consider meeting with a sex therapist, who can give you specific, individualized advice. And you should discuss your physical symptoms with your obstetrician-gynecologist, who may be able to prescribe something to help you.
Menopause Symptoms: Treating Low Libido
Although there are no drugs that can specifically treat sexual libido problems associated with menopause, the following options may help:
Menopause Treatments That May Not Address Libido Issues
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