Sex is a subject that has been way too long in the taboo cupboard!
Advice for peri and menopausal women has been hard to find, so we're hitting it head-on right now.
Whether you want to have a healthy sex life or not (it's not for everyone), it's not something you're going to necessarily feel comfortable talking about. When I talk to women on my calls (a safe and private space), I'd guess that nine out of 10 of them are not happy with their sex life in some way.
And they're not alone, studies have shown 75% of women over 40 feel like their sex drive is decreasing, and 70% report dryness as an issue as well. So, unfortunately, this issue is very common.
So what are the most common symptoms that stop women having a happy sex life as they go through menopause? Low libido, painful sex, vaginal dryness (or vaginal atrophy!), and harder to achieve orgasms seem to be the main issues for many women.
There are physical and psychological causes for these types of problems;
- Menopause – less frequent ovulation results in less oestrogen being produced, therefore the vaginal walls can be dryer and less strong and supple. Less progesterone can lead to breast tenderness, and low testosterone levels can impact libido.
- Fatigue – one of the main reasons for not wanting sex is that you're just plain exhausted! This is a recurring theme in our modern lives with families and careers to take care of.
- Stress – cortisol is the biggest turn off for sex, desire or your libido because it shuts down your sex hormones. If you're under stress your body will not be prioritising your sex drive (the body doesn't want to bring a baby into a stressed world)
- Thyroid issues – Thyroid is your hormone and metabolism regulator. It's responsible for pretty much every cell in the body getting the energy it needs to do stuff. That includes your reproductive function, sex hormones and your mood as well. So if your thyroid is low, you're very unlikely to be feeling sexy.
- Nutrient deficiencies – As we get older, nutrient absorption can suffer. Which means we can be short of the nutrients our body needs to make good levels of hormones, and regulate our energy, mood and brain function
- Hot flushes/night sweats – if you are breaking out in a hot sweat on a regular basis, it is going to be hard to get in the mood! Not only do you feel unattractive, but cuddling up to another sweaty body is probably the last thing you fancy!
- Medications – the side effects of certain medications (eg the birth control pill, some forms of HRT or anti-depressants) include low libido.
- Feeling Less Attractive – if you feel hot and sweaty, or if you are embarrassed by weight gain and your body changing as you get older, then it may be a bit more difficult to relax and get comfortable in the bedroom
- Mood swings – sex is so dependent on your mood! If you're feeling low, anxious, irritable or flat, it's likely going to have an impact on your sex drive
- Relationship issues – you might not always be on the best terms with your partner. You may have lost that little bit of intimacy because you're going up and down with your moods, your life in general or another reason. Or it may be them. Whatever it is, if there are underlying relationship issues, obviously a good sex life might be challenging
- Stress or Anxiety – here it is again. If you're feeling stressed or anxious, then relaxing for intimacy is going to be that much more difficult
Natural Solutions To Improve Your Sex Life
After all that, is there some good news?? Absolutely! Here are some natural solutions that you may find helpful;
- Talk to your partner – explain what’s happening to your body during this stage (use my book if it helps to explain things!). If your partner can understand they are more likely to be able to help and support you through the worst of it. If that isn't enough, counselling may be helpful or maybe consult a sex therapist
- Relax – make sure you take some time for yourself, whatever your commitments are. Stress is a sure-fire passion killer! Try mindfulness, acupuncture, or other relaxation techniques. Do something you love every day – walking in nature, reading, massage, talking to a good friend, watching a funny movie or taking a warm bath in Epsom salts.
- Look at your Diet – phytoestrogens help to replace oestrogen (soy, flaxseeds, red clover extract), eat plenty of healthy fats (for sex hormones and lubrication), colourful veg, and avoid food stressors including alcohol!
- Exercise – exercise stimulates circulation, blood flow and oxygen to all the right parts. So make sure you get out walking, or do yoga, pilates, weights – whatever makes you happy. But don't over-exercise because that's another stress that's likely to kill your libido.
- Switch to natural personal products – not only can many personal products irritate delicate areas, but they often contain hormone-disrupting chemicals like synthetic fragrances that are proven to mess with your hormones. Look for natural products instead (try BigGreenSmile.com for lots of natural brands).
- Love your body – we talk to ourselves sometimes in a way we’d never talk to anyone we loved! When you hear a negative voice about a certain part of your body – turn it into a positive. When you see a wobbly belly, think wow, that belly has brought a child into the world or that belly is keeping some spare energy in case I need it some day. If you see wrinkles, be grateful you’ve lived long enough to have them. Your body is an AMAZING thing, it puts up with a LOT. Thank it every day for keeping you alive. Practice saying affirmations about your body – even if you don’t believe them at first, you will start to feel more positive about yourself, and that will help you feel sexier.
- Supplements – There are certain supplements I'd recommend to help with libido and dryness;
- Omega-7 Sea Buckthorn Oil – this can help with dryness
- Omega-3 EPA and DHA. Look for good brands with at least 1000mg of combined EPA/DHA
- A good multivitamin will give you the basic vitamins and minerals you need.
- Maca is ‘nature's Viagra'! The right forms of maca can help with energy, stamina, and libido. The Femmenessence Maca range has some great clinical evidence behind it; MacaPause is if you're postmenopausal, MacaLife if you're perimenopausal, and MacaHarmony if you're pre-menopausal.
- Promensil is a red clover extract, a potent phytoestrogen that helps replace low levels of natural oestrogen.
- Natural Lubricants – Sometimes we can do all this and we still need a little bit of help. There are two natural lubricants that I recommend. One is called Yes and the other one is called Sylk. You can get both of these in my LiveBetterWithMenopause collection. Please avoid lubricants with chemicals in them that could irritate your skin. If they don't work then talk to your doctor about using localised oestrogen such as Vagifem which is a body-identical oestrogen, so it's very safe.
- Pelvic floor products – If you have any pelvic floor weakness or incontinence, there's a couple of things you can try for that as well. There's the Elvie Trainer, completely designed to help your pelvic floor. And the MUTU System is an exercise programme especially designed to strengthen your core and pelvic floor, and it's very effective.
- Get yourself tested – talk to us about the latest hormone and nutrient testing so that you can rule out any hormone imbalances that could be causing your symptoms
Please comment and tell me if there's anything in here that has resonated with you, or any solutions that you've found work for you. Let's get this conversation started!
If you would like to discuss any of these issues personally with any of the team then feel free to book a free discovery call with us.