Is Menopause Ruining Your Sex Life? How Hormones Affect the Libido
We hear so much about what the menopause can be like from friends, family, and the media – and not all of the information that comes through is positive. But the good news is that despite the outdated negative narratives of the past, we are moving into an age where we can talk more freely about our thoughts and feelings and discuss sensitive issues more frankly – safe in the knowledge that we aren’t alone in our experiences, and there are also plenty of options available to help. No one needs to suffer through menopause alone.
Many women find that their desire for sex begins to fade as they approach and go into menopause. Studies show that up to three-quarters of women feel their sex life has reduced since entering their midlife, and more than 50% report they have struggled to have an orgasm once the menopause hits. If a loss of libido is something you have found yourself battling since entering this new phase of life, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to suffer in silence, and it doesn’t have to be this way. There are plenty of things you can do to rekindle your libido and enjoy sex once again.
But the idea that menopause signals the end of a woman’s sexually active years is undoubtedly one of the past. As women can expect around a third of their life to be post-menopausal, it’s essential to realise that a healthy, satisfying sex life can still exist well into your later years.
The effect our hormones have on our libido
Hormones play a vital role in the desire for sex and intimacy. The changes in your hormonal balance can sometimes lead to loss of libido, and if you’re also suffering from a lack of body confidence, it can be challenging to feel as relaxed in the bedroom as you once did.
Fatigue, lack of energy and fluctuations in our mood can put a dampener on even the strongest relationships. At the same time, declining levels of oestrogen can result in the vagina becoming dry and uncomfortable. An astonishing 70% of women suffer from vaginal dryness and report it having a significant impact on their ability to be sexually active. When the vaginal tissues stop producing natural lubrication, sex can become painful, and, in some cases, they may even tear and bleed.
Testosterone is yet another critical driver of a healthy libido. Often perceived as a male hormone, testosterone is just as crucial for women. It plays a significant role in our mood, energy and sex drive, and cognitive function. Levels of testosterone in your body gradually reduce as you become older, with some women being more sensitive to the changes than others.
Communication is key
As we go through changes, it can mean that things feel different, and what was once pleasurable may not necessarily be so anymore. We may need to introduce lubrication, and it can be a time of rediscovering what we want in the bedroom. It’s imperative to communicate with your partner, letting them know how you feel and work together to bring intimacy back into the relationship.
It can be beneficial to talk to others who have been or are still going through similar symptoms, and although we are all different, talking can be a great relief. Discussing other women’s experiences may also give you insightful ideas of things that may also help you.
How can we effectively address the decline in hormones?
In the first instance, being aware that changes are emerging within your body due to changing hormones puts you in an excellent position to take back control and provides an opportunity to consider your options. These options can range from lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise to managing your symptoms with hormone replacement therapy.
Many women who take hormone replacement therapy, either traditional or bio-identical hormones, want to feel better and get back to everyday life. It can completely eliminate symptoms for some women, and for all women who use HRT, those symptoms will usually be improved.
Can Bio-Identical Hormone Therapy (BHRT) help rekindle the libido?
Bio-identical hormones are hormones that have been compounded – or tailored – to your unique profile, as determined by a blood test and consultation. Due to this, BHRT provides precisely the amount of hormones each person requires, which may lead to better symptom relief without unnecessary side effects.
Bio-identical hormones are safe forms of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone that are naturally derived (as opposed to synthetically derived with most traditional hormone therapy) and are a gold standard in terms of maximal efficacy and safety with minimal side effects. They’re derived from naturally occurring plant molecules, such as yams (a starchy root vegetable) and have the exact same molecular structure as the hormones in your body. Because they’re an exact match, your body reacts to them as it would your own hormones.
Women produce more testosterone than oestrogen, and it’s a crucial hormone to improve mood, concentration, energy and libido. For many women, this decline, along with lowering oestrogen levels, can bring with it many distressing symptoms such as low sexual desire and an inability to orgasm. Testosterone isn’t available to most women on the NHS, so in most cases, it will need to be accessed privately as part of a BHRT programme.
It’s so important to remember that the more we openly discuss these issues, the more empowered we can become to take control of our intimate health throughout our lives and enjoy healthy and active sex well into our later years. If you are struggling, there is help available. Start by keeping a symptom diary or tracker to demonstrate a pattern of symptoms, and when you’re ready, reach out to your GP to discuss your options.
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Disclaimer: Please be aware that results and benefits may vary from patient to patient taking into consideration factors such as age, lifestyle and medical history.