Menopause affects your body in a myriad of different ways and it can certainly impact both your sex drive and sexual confidence.
The menopause comes with a range of symptoms that can impact mood, plus the body’s physical response and arousal process. Symptoms vary person to person.
According to new research from LELO UK, 14.5% of women surveyed said the menopause was getting in the way of their sex lives.
INTIMINA UK gynaecologist Dr Shree Datta says: “Common signs of the menopause include night sweats, vaginal dryness, pain during sex, and joint or muscle pain.
“Vaginal atrophy can be caused by a drop in oestrogen levels which can result in a variety of symptoms gradually developing over time. This includes the skin around the vaginal opening becoming irritated, sore or itchy.
“Sex may become uncomfortable and you may notice some bleeding, motivating many women to avoid penetrative sex.
“It’s also a time in many women’s lives when they are experiencing related symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings, night sweats, insomnia, headaches and muscular aches and pains, all of which can detrimentally affect general wellbeing.
“This, in turn, can have a knock-on effect on sex lives and relationships.”
How to make sex more comfortable
According to LELO sex and relationship expert Kate Moyle, there are always ways of adjusting your sex life to make sex more comfortable for you during and after this transitional period.
Here are her top tips:
- Communication is the best tool that you have to navigate any type of change in your sex life; and although we can feel close to and in sync with our partners, they can never know what’s going through our heads unless we tell them explicitly.
- A good lubricant is a helping hand for any sex life, INTIMINA’s Personal Moisturiser is a dual-purpose, water-based lubricant that’s perfect to use with your partner or by yourself. Vaginal atrophy can mean a reduction in elasticity and increased vaginal dryness, so lubricant can help with that creating a glide sensation, which will reduce friction and discomfort. It’s also a great addition for mutual or solo masturbation and for clitoral stimulation.
- Masturbation and orgasm have been recommended by some professionals as a way of increasing blood flow to the genitals, and keeping the tissue oxygenated. Sex toys can also be incorporated into this and vibrators have been shown to increase vascularity to the genitals.
- There are erogenous zones all over the body, and we don’t have to only pay attention to the genitals to experience sexual pleasure. Use it as an opportunity for you and your partner to explore each other’s bodies head to toe, playing with touch and massage and telling each other what you like and don’t like.
- Apps like Ferly also have audio guided exercises such as their ‘Body Scan’ which can help you to connect with your body and help you to understand your sexual self more. They also have sensual stories, which can help to ignite your imagination and create a sense of desire.
- Acupuncture or black cohosh may help reduce hot flushes and night sweats, but you may experience side effects such as stomach upsets or rashes when taking black cohosh. You might also benefit from strengthening your pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder, bowel and affect sexual function, by regularly doing kegel exercises. INTIMINA has even developed the KegelSmart™ – a revolutionary new way to do your Kegels. It’s a personal pelvic floor trainer which sets a routine that is simple to follow, safe to use, and completely tailored to your individual needs.
Dr Shree Datta adds that pelvic floor exercises “not only help to strengthen the muscles around your bladder, vagina and back passage, but regular pelvic floor exercises can help bowel and urinary control, and prevent vaginal wall prolapse with some evidence to suggesting more sensitivity during sex!”
How to exercise your pelvic floor
If you’re not sure how to start exercising your kegels, you’re not alone. In fact, six in 10 (59%) women surveyed by INTIMINA UK said they don’t know what kegel exercises are.
Here are Dr Shree Datta’s tips:
- Firstly, empty your bladder and make sure you are comfortable, whether that’s sitting, standing or lying down.
- Tighten your pelvic floor muscles by imagining that you are trying to stop yourself from urinating.
- Hold the contraction for 3-4 seconds and up to 10 seconds if possible.
- Release the contraction.
- Rest and relax, and then repeat for 10 to 15 times a day.
If you can’t feel anything, change position and try again – for example, take a seat if you’ve been standing up. Don’t hold your breath or squeeze your stomach, buttock or thigh muscles as you want to focus on clenching the pelvic floor muscles only.
Gynae tip: Imagine your vagina as an elevator shaft, with the opening as the ground floor. Slowly contract your pelvic muscles, lifting the elevator up towards your belly button. Pause at the top. Then slowly lower the elevator back down. Repeat 5 times.
For women looking to further strengthen their pelvic floor, INTIMINA’s KegelSmart provides better guidance on how to optimise your routine.
After inserting the KegelSmart, just wait for its directions – squeeze your pelvic floor muscles when it vibrates and relax when it stops.
The KegelSmart has the benefit of a sensor to help guide your progress by moving you up a level as your muscle strength improves. At the end of the training session, the device automatically switches off. It can also move you up levels to build strength and help you track your progress as a result. After using it, simply remove it and wash it with soap and water.
Menopause like any stage of our sex lives requires looking at the different components of what’s going on: the psychological, medical and physical factors that may be impacting where a person is in their sex life right now.