There are certain truths we think we know about sex and women over 50. Menopause kills a woman’s sex drive, so many women over 50 just aren't that interested in sex.
But is that true? Some local doctors say an older woman can find a new desire to explore her sexuality, relearn her body and experience some of the best sex of her life when she hits menopause if she is open and honest about her needs with her partner.
“For some women it really doesn’t change much,” said Dr. Jill Green with Just for Women Health Services in Jeffersonville, Ind. “But for the majority, there is a change at menopause, whether that’s early-40s or mid-50s.”
“When they finish menopause and start to have emotional changes, and physical changes, it typically will start to change their sexual experience,” she said.
Menopause, which the average American woman completes by age 52 to 53, causes a number of physical changes. “Desire, arousal, the ability to have intercourse comfortably changes,” said Dr. Kenneth J. Payne, an obstetrician/gynecologist with Norton OB/GYN Associates. “It’s the end of egg production; estrogen support for the vagina and bladder decrease.”
While the physical challenges to comfortable sex can largely be managed, one of the biggest challenges for women is desire.
“Libido for women is largely in their head,” Green added. “I had a woman recently who was in her 70s who complained about her husband’s lack of ability to perform.
She’s certainly in the minority, but it does happen.”
Green also said that a 'lack of desire' is not limited to women who have hit menopause. “I have lots of women in their 20s and 30s who complain of a decreased libido.
It becomes another chore they have to achieve,” Green said. Desire as women age can be affected by “a combination of feeling cherished by the person, feeling like they have the time to have intercourse, body image, and then the physical changes (of menopause) on top of that as well.”
Want to keep your sex life smoldering into your golden years? Here are a few doctor suggested tips:
“Communication is very important,” said Green. Women should “discuss their needs with their partner. Take a really critical look at why they’re feeling that way.
Sometimes there are outside forces that can be changed that can make a big difference in desire.”
Payne added that he "supports an annual exam," so women have the opportunity to discuss any concerns or biological changes with their doctor. "Most women aren’t going to schedule an appointment to talk about sexual issues. But they’ll bring it up if they’re there for something else."
Women who have hit menopause often complain about a loss of sensitivity during intercourse, which Payne said can be uncomfortable for many women.
“Sometimes women keep having intercourse with pain, and then don’t want it anymore,” Payne said. “Women should talk to their physicians if they’re having that
problem. Is it lack of lubrication, or ‘I just don’t want to’? There’s a big difference.”
Focus on Sensation
Green said menopausal women often experience a decreased ability to orgasm. “Decreased sensitivity can be a problem,” she said.
For upping the intensity of sensation, a 2012 article on the AARP website recommended investing in a vibrator to use alone or with a partner.
Green agreed that “prolonging foreplay can be very helpful, as well." She also suggested looking at other over-the counter products that can increase sensitivity, like Zestra.
“It’s an oil that provides lubrication and increased sensitivity.That will sometimes help," she said.