Takeaway: Menopause is a change of life that all women will experience. It doesn't always have to be a horror story when it comes to your sex life.
All women will hear stories about the horrors of menopause and how it destroys your sex life. We’re told that hormonal changes dry up our vaginas and our desire. Finally, a study was conducted which calls those assumptions into question. The study, released in the Journal of Sexual Medicine on May 4, 2015, is a longitudinal examination of sexual function in women before and after menopause. One of the researchers, Dr. Timothy Spector, talked to a reporter for Time.com, noting, "We were surprised by the results a little bit. They suggest that menopause has been exaggerated as an excuse for everything."
Don't Blame It All on Menopause
The main point illustrated in the study is that women who have problems with sexual desire and functioning before menopause will have them afterward. Those women who experience little issues with sexual desire remain free of problems after menopause. In other words, it's not menopause that causes the issue.
Media Driven Fear About Menopause
I’ve been thinking lately about the stories we make up about our sexuality and what sexual desire means for older women and how those stories affect our lives. The stories we hear in the media and from our peers are often negative. We’re told that menopause will be awful, terrifying, and life-altering. To illustrate, in a Facebook group of older women I belong to, a woman shared that she was in the early stages of menopause. She was immediately bombarded with comments about how awful it would be and suggestions about hormone therapy. She hadn’t mentioned problems, but all she received were negative comments. In that environment how could one not begin to worry about this transition?
Then, there’s this story on EmpowHER. The opening sentence: “The onset of menopause can induce fear and anxiety in any woman, after all, the symptoms of menopause are not only associated with a high level of discomfort - they can significantly influence a woman’s quality of life. Among the most common symptoms - though rarely uttered aloud - are low sex drive and sexual dysfunction.”
That article, sponsored by a company that promotes hormone-replacement therapy, strikes me as more of a scare tactic than helpful advice. Objectivity is compromised when the message comes from companies seeking to make money from our fears and discomforts around aging and menopause.
We are bombarded with negative images and messages about growing old every day. The media and advertisers don’t tell the whole story, which is that many of us will not experience pain or vaginal dryness as we go through menopause. The only story these advertisers are telling us is how their drug or product will fix our problem.
Changing Your Thought Process About Menopause
I like what Dr. Spector said in his interview with Time, “By modifying your life and attitudes about sexual desire, you can change things sometimes surprisingly for the better, although you are getting older.”
I find it reassuring to see a scientific study affirming the positives about aging and sexual desire. Why is it assumed that things get worse with age? Fine wines, aged cheeses, a good bourbon? The passage of time isn’t always the culprit if we’re having issues with our sexuality. Yet, listening to our society’s messages, you don’t hear many positive messages about older women and sex.
If you want your sex life to get better, or to remain at the exciting juicy place it is right now, it’s up to you. It’s about attitude and placing value on what’s important to you. You may have hot flashes and night sweats. You might experience some dryness, but thank heavens we have many wonderful options for lubricants. Menopause doesn’t last forever; it won’t kill you.
The best way to cope with menopause, as with other life transitions, is to have an open mind, be patient and positive, and be sure you’re communicating your needs. Continue your sexual activities while going through menopause if you can. It is not an illness.
One of the worst things you can do is to shut down your sex drive. Sexual arousal and activity are important components of female sexual health. Arousal brings needed blood flow to your vaginal tissues. This will help combat age-related changes to the vagina. The impact of withdrawing sexually could place a greater strain on your relationship than dealing with hot flashes and night sweats. Remember, when we orgasm our bodies release hormones that make us feel good.
My best advice to you is to stop listening to negative advice about menopause and sex. Ignore those women who talk about sex as some dreadful, to-be-endured task. None of that is helpful. If you’re having severe symptoms, see a healthcare practitioner who specializes in women’s medicine to discuss your options.
You can decide what kind of sex life you want to live before, during, and after menopause. Some women find the transition and the freedom of life after menopause a wonderful treat for a new phase in life. That’s the kind of upbeat message we need to hear.