Libido and Menopause
What causes sex drive? A romantic date night? Your time in your cycle? The causes for libido are limitless, and as vast as the imagination. Breaking down desire into biology and environmental factors can help isolate certain methods to remedy decreasing sexual desire. As with many changes in life, talking through the shifts is important. This can happen in intentional conversations with a partner, as well as with the assistance of therapists and counselors who may be able to help couples work through barriers. Many women tend to experience a decrease in sex drive between the ages of 35 and 64. This period of time is vast, and yet, changes in libido is not a concrete science or a guarantee. Paying attention to yourself, and your desires, is a great place to start.
Various Therapies to Increase Sex Drive
As with other symptoms of menopause, there are many hormonal and non-hormonal therapies that can be explored. Learning what works for your body, as well as noting any risk factors you may have, is a conversation worth having. Regarding sexual desire, some women explore testosterone-replacement therapy in the form of creams and other medications, though the FDA does not approve this form of hormone therapy for women during menopause. Hormone replacement therapies can lead to a renewal in sexual desire, as can changes in diet and exercise. However, it must be noted that not all women experience a decrease in sex drive during menopause. Some women actually have an increase in libido.
When looking at the biological factors of sex drive, they can often be linked to a time in a woman’s menstrual cycle. Right before and after women ovulate, many women have increased libido. However, as menstruation and therefore ovulation cease, there isn’t that extra burst of estrogen which can lead to an increase in libido. The loss of estrogen also contributes to vaginal dryness.
Women are not the only ones who may experience a decline in sex drive. Men can also experience this shift, although women are two to three times more likely to report this change. Another factor, for both women and men, is the decrease of testosterone (which yes, women have as well). Testosterone is the active hormone related to sexual response. However, even with these biological factors at play, simple over-the-counter remedies like water-based lubricants can reignite the flame and make sexual intercourse more enjoyable. Beyond that treatment, having conversations about what’s happening—and reconnecting with your partner—is important.
Anxiety and stress, along with everyday life factors—concern about work, family, friends, the community, health, education—all play a role when it comes to sexual desire. The more stressed a person is, the harder it can be to find yourself “in the mood.” Therapists recommend taking time with a partner to do romantic activities, however those might be defined for you. Planning time for yourselves, rather than just hoping it will happen, can help couples come together even in times of difficulty.
It’s Not All Bad—Good Things Around the Corner
While some women certainly experience a drop in sexual desire at some point of menopause, many women also report an increased joy when it comes to sex. No longer is there a concern for pregnancy, and the hormonal shifts of menstruation slowly disappear. The lessening of stress surrounding pregnancy can often be a huge relief for women. Redefining intimacy in these moments is important—what does it mean to you and your partner? Sex therapists recommend exploring new methods of intimacy and being open with your partner. Rather than looking at this time as something to fear, looking at it through the lens of curiosity can open up many possibilities.