World Menopause Day is October 18! This day is an opportunity to raise awareness about the very real impact this condition has on people around the world. Despite affecting about half of the world’s population, menopause isn’t talked about as much as it should be and most of us only know about it from jokes about aging and hot flashes. We all get older—do you know how menopause may affect you? Let’s talk about it.
What is menopause?
Officially, menopause is a point in time 12 consecutive months after your last period when your ovaries are no longer producing estrogen or releasing eggs. Perimenopause (the time leading up to menopause) may last 8-10 years, although most people only begin to experience side effect in the last few years of this stage as their estrogen production slows down. Perimenopause often begins in your 40s and the average age of the onset of menopause is 51.
How do I know if I’m experiencing menopause?
Estrogen is used in various processes throughout the body so menopause can affect your health in big (and small) ways. Everyone is different, but there are some very common symptoms of menopause you can look out for.
- Irregular or different periods: Your periods may be shorter or longer, closer together or further apart, heavier or lighter than normal, or all of the above! Period changes are often the first signs of menopause, but you can still become pregnant during this time.
- Hot flashes: You’ve probably heard of these before, or even teased an older relative about them, but hot flashes are no walk in the park! A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat in the upper part or all of your body that sometimes leads to flushing in the neck and face, or red blotches on your body. Heavy sweating and cold shivering can follow and they can sometimes be strong enough to wake you up (called night sweats). They can happen several times an hour, a few times a day, or just once or twice a week.
- Bladder control: Yep, hormonal changes can affect your bladder too, and you may become more prone to UTIs, along with experiencing incontinence.
- Mood changes: You already know hormones affect your mood (hello, PMS). Menopause can also make you moodier or more irritable.
- Your body may look different: Your waist could get larger. You could lose muscle and gain fat. Your skin could become thinner. Your joints and muscles could feel stiff and achy. All of this is normal and common and part of transitioning into a new life stage.
All these symptoms may feel overwhelming, but it’s not all doom and gloom, and it’s certainly not the end of your sex life. Let’s see where you go from here.
How does menopause affect my vagina?
After menopause, the drop in your body’s estrogen affects vaginal tissue, leading to thinner vaginal skin and increased dryness. These changes contribute to the increased risk of UTIs mentioned above and can lead to sex that is more painful or uncomfortable.
Will I still want to have sex after menopause?
Maybe, or maybe not! Everyone experiences menopause differently. You may be less interested, or you could feel freer and sexier since you don’t have to worry about pregnancy. If you do find you’re interested in pursuing sex, but vaginal pain or dryness are standing in your way, there are plenty of ways to address that.
- Lube, lube, lube. You know we’re a broken record about it! Adding lube during sex helps everyone, including those of us experiencing menopause. This simple solution adds moisture and lubrication back to the vagina to decrease friction and make sex less painful and more pleasurable.
- Orgasm help. During the menopausal transition, blood flow to the vagina and clitoris decreases. If you usually need clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm, the resulting decrease in sensitivity can make orgasm more difficult to achieve and make the experience of sex frustrating. A prescription cream like wisp’s OMG! Cream includes the same prescription ingredient as Viagra to increase blood flow instantly and make orgasm easier and more satisfying.
- Urinary support. With menopausal women being at higher risk for UTIs, preventing UTIs (especially those caused by sex) is extra important. D-Mannose helps flush UTI-causing bacteria from your system before it has a chance to take hold. Incorporate it into your routine, and be sure to pee after sex every time!
- Add some romance. Sex is as much a mental game as a physical one. Menopause can be stressful and difficult to navigate, and these concerns may weigh on your mind when you’re getting hot and heavy. Switching up the mood with music, a warm bath, and a sexy movie, or asking your partner to fulfill a fantasy or give you a massage can go a long way towards making you feel sexier in your skin.
Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to go through menopause. You may find that your interest in sex has disappeared, and that you’re fine with it—that’s great! You can spend your newfound time learning a new skill or planning your next vacation. If you are feeling a bit of a hole in your life, however, there’s plenty you can do to feel more like yourself again.
What do I need to know having sex with menopause?
Time to go back to sex ed! You may not have to worry about pregnancy anymore, but STIs are still very real! Did you know that the rate of STIs in adults over 55 has doubled in recent years? We love that so many of us are still living fulfilling sex lives as older adults, but it’s more important than ever to use protection during this time. Your immune system isn’t as powerful as it used to be and lowered immunity makes it easier for infections to take hold and cause complications. So use condoms every time!