“The changes that occur during this period, including changes in sexual well-being, are typically caused by a mix of both menopause and aging, as well as…”.1

Umbrella
What may the Sexual Health and Menopause Umbrella include?

Depending on the Source (DotS) this Umbrella may include:

  • Menopause and Sexual Health
  • Sexual Health and Menopause
  • Sexual Well-Being and Menopause

Sexual Health

What may influence a woman’s sexual health?

In Sexual Health & Menopause Online: Causes of Sexual Problems the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) explain:

“If you had to choose one word to describe women’s sexual function and sexual health, you’d be wise to go with “complex.” The factors that contribute to women’s sexual health and satisfaction—as well as to their sexual problems—are many, and they are often interrelated. These factors range from the physical changes of menopause and aging (reviewed earlier) to a woman’s physical health, her cultural and religious standards, issues in her relationship, her self-image, and stress and lifestyle issues”.2

Menopause, Aging, Other Factors

Is there an association between menopause, aging, other factors and sexual health?

In Sexual Difficulties In the Menopause the Australasian Menopause Society note:

“Sexual difficulties can be life-long or recently acquired, but they are a common presentation at the menopause. They may also be situational (limited to certain types of stimulation, situations, or partners) or generalized”.3

In Sexual Health & Menopause Online: Changes At Midlife the NAMS elaborate on:

Sexual Health and Menopause
“Every woman experiences her midlife years differently. The changes that occur during this period, including changes in sexual well-being, are typically caused by a mix of both menopause and aging, as well as by typical midlife stresses and demands”.4

In Sex & Relationships: Sex & Menopause the (Australian) Jean Hailes for Women’s Health (JH) also note:

“At midlife and menopause, many things are likely to be happening, both to your body and in your relationships. There might be partners, children and ageing or unwell parents to consider, as well as work demands and even your sense of identity as a woman. These changes can affect your sexuality and, together with the hormonal changes, sexual problems may occur”.5

Sexual Activity

Is there an association between regular sexual activity and menopause?

In Sexual Health & Menopause Online: Changes In the Vagina and Vulva – Vulvovaginal Atrophy the NAMS explain:

“When a woman doesn’t have intercourse or other vaginal sexual activity on a regular basis following menopause, her vagina may also become shorter and narrower. Then, when she does try to have intercourse, she is likely to experience pain, even if she uses a lubricant. That’s because dry, fragile vulvovaginal tissues are susceptible to injury, tearing, and bleeding during intercourse or any penetration of the vagina. The resulting discomfort can be so great that the woman avoids intercourse and the condition worsens. Sometimes, even women who are not sexually active are bothered by vaginal dryness and the irritation that may accompany it”.6

How may regular sexual activity help?

According to the NAMS:

“Continuing to have regular vaginal sexual activity through menopause helps keep the vaginal tissues thick and moist and maintains the vagina’s length and width. This helps keep sexual activity pleasurable”.7

Other Factors

What is it helpful to sort out with sexual problems?

In Sex & Relationships: Relationships – What Can You Do To Help Your Relationship? the JH note:

“If sexual problems are causing difficulties in your relationship, it is helpful to sort out how many of them are due to the physical symptoms of menopause, and how many might relate to other issues, or both. When you have worked this out, then you can seek the appropriate help”.8

Concern or Not

Are the changes menopause causes to a woman’s sexual life a concern?

Not necessarily. In Sex & Relationships: Sex & Menopause – The Impact of Symptoms the JH explain:

“Some women are concerned by the changes menopause causes to their sexual lives, and others are not so worried. It really depends on you, your attitude to sex, your age, how menopause has affected you, whether you are in a relationship, whether you want to have sex and whether there are other things happening in your life you are more concerned about”.9

Sexual Health & Menopause Online

What is the NAMS’s Sexual Health and Menopause Online?

In their Sexual Health and Menopause Online the NAMS elaborate on:

Sexual Health and Menopause

“…our understanding of how menopause and aging affect sexual health has grown a lot in recent years. This online resource is designed to share that understanding with women (and their partners) who want to get a handle on what menopause might mean for their sex lives. Although most women experience some changes in sexual function as they age, menopause and aging certainly do not signal the end of a woman’s sex life”.10

Partners

Where may partners find more information about sexual health and menopause?

In Information for Partners: Sex & Menopause the JH elaborate on:

“A key issue for couples and relationships may be that your partner is no longer keen to have sex. This can be for a range of reasons related to menopause symptoms. One key symptom is a dry vagina: Lower levels of oestrogen directly affect a woman’s vagina and can make it thinner, drier and less elastic. Also, testosterone levels fall gradually with age and this can have an impact on a woman’s level of desire at menopause”.11

Health Care Provider

What if I would like help with my sexual health and menopause?

If you would like help with your sexual health and menopause, it may be in your best interest to choose to talk to your health care provider about this.

In Sexual Health & Menopause Online the NAMS reassure:

“Sex and menopause are totally appropriate subjects for discussion in the healthcare setting, and solutions to midlife sexual problems are out there for the taking”.12

In Sexual Health & Menopause Online: Talking To Your Healthcare Provider About Your Problem the NAMS also note:

“If your provider asks about your sex life or sexual function, don’t miss the opportunity to be frank and look for help. More important, if your provider doesn’t ask specifically about your sexual function, don’t be afraid to bring up a distressing sexual problem yourself when you’re asked, “How are you feeling?” Most providers today are comfortable addressing such a problem; if your provider is not, consider looking for another. There is absolutely no need to suffer (or let your relationship suffer) in silence”.13

The (United States) Mayo Clinic also encourage us to talk about sex explaining:

“Your health has a big impact on your sex life and vice versa. Don’t be embarrassed about discussing sex with your doctor. Your doctor can be a reliable source of information on sexual health. He or she can help you manage chronic conditions and medications that affect your sex life. Your doctor can help you understand how sexual activity may change throughout your life”.14

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Sources

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Sources

  1. Sexual Health & Menopause Online: Changes At Midlife. North American Menopause Society http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/changes-at-midlife Accessed: 06 November 2019
  2. Sexual Health & Menopause Online: Causes of Sexual Problems. North American Menopause Society http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/causes-of-sexual-problems Accessed: 06 November 2019
  3. Sexual Difficulties In the Menopause. Content Updated 27 June 2016. Australasian Menopause Society https://www.menopause.org.au/hp/information-sheets/722-sexual-difficulties-in-the-menopause Accessed: 06 November 2019
  4. Sexual Health & Menopause Online: Changes At Midlife. North American Menopause Society http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/changes-at-midlife Accessed: 06 November 2019
  5. Sex & Relationships: Sex & Menopause. Last Updated 04 February 2019 — Last Reviewed 17 December 2017. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health http://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/menopause/sex Accessed: 06 November 2019
  6. Sexual Health & Menopause Online: Changes In the Vagina and Vulva – Vulvovaginal Atrophy. North American Menopause Society http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/changes-at-midlife/changes-in-the-vagina-and-vulva Accessed: 06 November 2019
  7. Sexual Health & Menopause Online: Changes In the Vagina and Vulva: Vulvovaginal Atrophy. North American Menopause Society http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/changes-at-midlife/changes-in-the-vagina-and-vulva Accessed: 06 November 2019
  8. Sex & Relationships: Relationships – What Can You Do To Help Your Relationship? Last Updated 04 February 2019 — Last Reviewed 17 December 2017. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health http://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/menopause/sex Accessed: 06 November 2019
  9. Sex & Relationships: Sex & Menopause – The Impact of Symptoms. Last Updated 04 February 2019 — Last Reviewed 17 December 2017. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health http://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/menopause/sex Accessed: 06 November 2019
  10. Sexual Health & Menopause Online. North American Menopause Society http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online Accessed: 06 November 2019
  11. Information for Partners: Sex & Menopause. Last Updated 20 August 2018 — Last Reviewed 03 March 2014. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/menopause/information-for-partners Accessed: 06 November 2019
  12. Sexual Health & Menopause Online. North American Menopause Society http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online Accessed: 06 November 2019
  13. Sexual Health & Menopause Online: Talking To Your Health Care Provider About Your Problem. North America Menopause Society http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/effective-treatments-for-sexual-problems/talking-to-your-healthcare-provider-about-your-problem Accessed: 06 November 2019
  14. Have Questions About Sex? Ask Your Doctor. 03 January 2019. Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/sexual-health/in-depth/art-20048805 Accessed: 06 November 2019
Topic Last Updated: 06 November 2019 – Topic Last Reviewed: 06 November 2019
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