Dear Readers – It’s time to discuss how Menopause affects women and their male partners.
A recent question from a man complaining that his wife wouldn’t discuss menopause but arbitrarily ended sex with him (Feb. 17) raises the question:
Is it the woman’s hormonal changes, or her reaction to them, or the quality of the couple’s relationship that causes her to give up on having sex?
Some facts – Menopause refers to when a woman stops having her period permanently, which may follow a peri-menopausal phase of having night sweats, and mood swings.
Some symptoms and side effects of menopause: Anxiety, bladder control issues, decreased sex drive and sexual desire, depression, difficulty sleeping, thinning hair, and weight gain.
Little wonder that this can be a very trying transition for a woman!
The reality is that decreased estrogen levels can result in reduced blood flow to the vagina, which can cause the tissues of the vagina and the labia to become thinner. If this happens, the two areas become less sensitive to sexual stimulation.
Decreased blood flow also affects vaginal lubrication and overall arousal. As a result, a woman may not enjoy sex as much and may have difficulty achieving an orgasm. Sex can not only become uncomfortable, but also painful.
But it’s not always only bad news. Many women who experience this transition seek medical advice from a women’s health clinic. Their family doctor or, if needed, a gynecologist on how best to handle menopause, given their particular symptoms.
Those who benefit from using lubricants, herbal therapies such as black cohosh, trying new sexual positions or other approaches to intimacy, and those who seek and are given medical approval for using hormonal replacement therapy (HRT), learn to navigate their new sexual realities.
If their relationship includes being able to discuss openly with their partners why something works towards maintaining a sex life together, and why something else doesn’t work, they stand a good chance of still enjoying intimacy in their post-menopausal and senior years.
Reader #1 - “After menopause, many women experience atrophy of the vulva and clitoris, ending the sex drive. It’s a mostly irreversible condition that can happen unexpectedly and within two months.
“Despite being in a happy and long sexual relationship, you can find yourself stopped dead in your sexual tracks. Hormonal changes can also lead to very painful conditions that prevent sex. My post-menopausal female friends said this also occurred with all of them.
“When older males experience a similar phase of hormonal decrease, it also affects their female partners.
“Their decrease in testosterone and male pheromones result in a woman’s decrease in sex drive, which can also be very distressing for women.
“If a man wants to increase his wife’s interest, he should perhaps investigate increasing his own pheromone emissions, to arouse her.’
Reader #2 – “Menopause’s hormonal changes cause many women to experience a dramatic decrease in libido.
“It’s a physiological reaction, independent of mood swings, relationship issues, etc., although of course those don’t help. Mood swings can obviously affect a couple’s relationship, but they’re not a requirement for the loss of libido.
“I am post-menopause, have not had much trouble with mood swings, my relationship with my husband is excellent, we talk all the time about menopause and my symptoms, he’s extremely supportive – but I have still lost my libido. We work at maintaining our intimacy, but that doesn’t change the fact that my hormone levels have changed.”
FEEDBACK Regarding the man disappointed in the “amazing” woman he’d considered for a joint future, when she went quiet on first meeting with his friends (Feb. 19):
Reader – “As a proud introvert, I am usually much more animated in one-to-one conversations than when among groups of people, especially strangers. I don't regard this trait as a flaw in my personality.
“While your suggestions regarding opening up communication are well-placed, I’d add that the phrase he used - "woman of my dreams" - is quite telling. Perhaps he should stop dreaming and look at the multi-faceted personalities of the women he dates.
“He wants to "head for the hills" when his adored one doesn't perform like a trained seal in front of his friends.
“Maybe he should look into whether he’s shallow and self-absorbed, looking for a dream woman instead of a real one. If I were that woman, I’d head for the hills!”
Tip of the day:
Couples should openly discuss together the changes in libido caused by menopause (and/or men’s aging symptoms), to find new approaches to intimacy.