Sex can be a pleasurable and healthy experience for any woman regardless of age, stage of life or physical abilities. The choice to abstain from sex is also normal and healthy. Some women find there are challenges to enjoying sex in mid-life and beyond.
After menopause, women can experience vaginal changes such as decreased lubrication and a thinning of the vaginal tissues that can cause discomfort. This also puts them at a higher risk for transmission of sexually transmitted infections including HIV.
To deal with vaginal changes:
• Practice safer sex. This is very important to your health
• Allow for longer foreplay to give yourself plenty of time to lubricate. Water-soluble lubricants found at drugstores can also help prevent pain or discomfort. Avoid oil-based lubricants such as petroleum jelly. These can weaken condoms and make them less effective in preventing infections.
If you are sexually active, it is important to talk to your health care provider about being regularly tested for sexually transmitted challenges.
Women who have gone through menopause, or who have had a hysterectomy may have lower sex desire (libido) because of lower hormone levels. This is also normal.
Some older women or their partners face new physical limitations with illness or conditions that develop as they age. You may want to try new positions or techniques; healthy sexuality does not have to include intercourse. Manual and/or oral stimulation, by yourself or with your partner, can be quite satisfying too. If you have a partner, talk about what you’d each like to try and have fun experimenting together.
Many things besides physical changes can decrease your interest in sex. You may be experiencing depression, anxiety, grief, or problems in a relationship. You may be feeling less sexually desirable also because of the messages in the media that only young women are sexy.
You may find that desire returns when you are more relaxed. And remember that touch comes in many wonderful, non-sexual ways. Hugs and other signs of affection can also help you feel close and intimate.