Your partner is still keen, but during menopause sex may be the last thing on your mind. You are not alone. Many women find that their desire for sex wanes as they approach menopause. Studies show that up to 75 percent of women feel their sex drive has declined since menopause. That’s not surprising when up to 70 percent report suffering from vaginal dryness. Spontaneity and enjoyment understandably go out the window when penetration is painful.
Many women regard their loss of libido as part of their fading youth. Our libido levels are often a well-kept secret, and not something we consider an acceptable part of social chitchat over cocktails, even with our best friends. There are no standards for a normal level of libido, and there is no such thing as a normal sex drive. What is normal for one couple may be abnormal for another. You can judge your libido only by your own standards. If you are concerned that your sexual desire has diminished, the good news is you can take action to restore it.
Tiredness, lack of energy, and mood swings can put a strain on the most solid relationship. At the same time, falling levels of estrogen can result in the lining of your vagina becoming dry and uncomfortable. When this happens, penetration can become painful and, in extreme cases, the tissue may tear and bleed. If you are also suffering from night sweats, it’s not surprising that you don’t feel very sexy.
Many women suffer in silence, thinking this is an inevitable part of growing older. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are plenty of things you can do naturally to repair the vaginal lining, encourage the cells to produce mucus again, and rekindle your libido.
Quiz: How’s Your Libido?
- Have you lost your sex drive?
- Do you have sex less often than you used to?
- Do you find sex painful?
- Does your vagina feel dry?
- Have you stopped looking forward to having sex?
- Have you stopped communicating with your partner on an intimate level?
- Are you too tired for sex?
- Has your enjoyment of sex diminished?
- Do you make excuses to avoid sex?
If you answered yes to more than two of these questions, try the following action plan to give your sex life a boost.
Causes of Loss of Libido
Low libido may have multiple causes, not all of which are related to menopausal changes. Excessive weight gain or weight loss, irregular periods, hair loss, or excessive hair growth may all signify hormonal problems that can result in a low sex drive. Other hormone disturbances, like thyroid problems or galactorrhea, a white milky discharge from the nipples, can also cause low libido, as can the hormonal changes at the time of menopause that cause night sweats and insomnia. Childbirth — now more common than it used to be among women approaching the age of menopause — also affects libido with rapid changes in hormone levels and disturbed sleep.
Sometimes women are put off sex because intercourse is too painful. The pain may be due to infection, vaginismus (spasm of the vaginal muscles), an enlarged or displaced uterus, or another hormonal abnormality. Additional causes of low libido include a history of long-term illness, lack of energy, and psychologically distressing past experiences.
Sex can also be off putting if it leads to urinary tract infections (UTIs). When the vaginal tissues are fragile, they can be damaged by pressure from penetration. This can make the urethra vulnerable to infection, especially if you are short of vitamin D and magnesium, two common deficiencies.
Stress, worry in the here and now, and depression often take their toll on sex drive. When you are mentally preoccupied with pressing problems, the body naturally diverts its energy to helping you through the troubled times, and sexual desire may take a back seat.
The good news is that there is no need to accept falling libido levels as an inevitable part of aging. Energy levels often begin to wane prior to menopause, as estrogen levels decline and symptoms of estrogen withdrawal and long-term nutritional deficiencies start to show. Symptoms subside, and libido can be rekindled, once nutrient levels have been replenished and the body is supplied with naturally occurring phytoestrogens (see chapter 3). In addition, a number of traditional medicinal herbs contain active ingredients that can improve mood and raise energy levels and libido.
Maca root, cultivated in Peru, has been used as a safe aid to health for more than two thousand years. It stimulates the hormone-producing glands in the body. A few studies suggest that maca can alleviate sexual dysfunction, reduce vaginal dryness, and improve libido. There are thirteen different types of maca. Each has a different color and active ingredient content. Although most of them apparently work better for men than for women, maca has been shown to help to control menopause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and fluctuating moods. It may also strengthen bones and improve sleep.
Ginseng is considered to be nonaddictive and far safer to use than stimulants, and is used to reduce the effects of stress, improve sexual performance, boost energy levels, enhance memory, and stimulate the immune system. It contains vitamins A and B6 and zinc, which helps the production of thymic hormones, necessary for the functioning of the immune system.
Ginseng is an adaptogen, which means that it has the ability to normalize body functions. For example, it helps to regulate blood sugar levels, which is of particular use in treating diabetes, and lowers blood pressure if it is too high.
St. John’s wort has also been shown to help boost a waning libido. A German study published a few years ago, on a group of 111 women with libido problems before menopause, showed that 60 percent of the participants had regained their libido significantly after a twelve-week course of 900 mg of St. John’s wort per day.
Horny goat weed (Epimedium, also known as barrenwort) has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It has been shown to increase sexual interest in both men and women. Another herb, tribulus, thought to increase the production of testosterone in men and increase their sex drive, has also been shown to significantly boost libido in women.
Maryon Stewart is the author of Manage Your Menopause Naturally and 27 other books. A world-renowned healthcare expert, she has helped tens of thousands of women around the world overcome PMS and menopause symptoms without using drugs or hormones. Visit her online at http://www.maryonstewart.com.