How does physical change during menopause affect sexual life?

The physical changes that occur during menopause (the change of life ending your fertility) can affect your sex life. Many women experience vaginal dryness and discomfort during intercourse. Other women report a decreased sex drive during menopause. These problems cause many women to withdraw from physical intimacy and become disinterested in sex.

Talk to your doctor about lubricants and other treatments for vaginal dryness. Also, communicate openly with your partner to help improve your sex life.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The physical changes women experience can have a huge impact on her sex life. That's because when estrogen wanes it can cause the lining of the vagina to become thin and less lubricated, and that can be painful for some women. Women in menopause also have night sweats and hot flashes that can keep them from getting a good night's sleep. And its hard to get in the mood for sex when you are sleep deprived. So anything that affects your willingness or desire for sex will put a damper on activities in the bedroom.

Declining sex hormones signal the end of our reproductive capacities but not the end of our capacity for sexual enjoyment. Despite old stereotypes that women dry up and become nonsexual after menopause, the reality is often quite different. The physical changes that come with menopause may affect our sexuality. Changes in menstrual bleeding patterns are early signals of the menopause transition. Some women's periods just shorten and fade without any fanfare. Other women experience longer and heavier bleeding periods that sometimes may require medical intervention. Anxieties and shame can accompany such heavy bleeding, especially when a woman worries that she will bleed through her clothes. While some women welcome the freedom from menstruation and from the possibility of pregnancy and are more interested in sex, others mourn the loss of fertility and feel less feminine. Sometimes, sex can relieve some of the tension; sometimes, it is the last thing we want. Hot flashes and night sweats can also dim sexual feelings.

For some women, dryness and thinning of the vagina may be the first noticeable and disturbing experience of the menopause transition. These changes can make sexual activities, especially vaginal penetration, uncomfortable or even painful and can test the resilience of their communication with their partners.

Some of us experience changes in our sexual response, including the lack of or greatly reduced sexual interest and desire, problems with mental or physical arousal, less lubrication, and less intense orgasms. These changes may happen gradually or suddenly. We may be confused over whether or not to attribute them to aging, menopause, or the weathering of a long-term relationship.

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause

More About this Book

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause


Continue Learning about Menopause

6 Things You Need to Know About Hormone Therapy
6 Things You Need to Know About Hormone Therapy
If you’re going through menopause or perimenopause, you may be experiencing symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep problems, vaginal dryness or changes i...
Read More
What is short-term hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?
Short-term therapy involves taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for five years or less. Short-t...
More Answers
7 Expert-Approved Ways to Relieve Hot Flashes
7 Expert-Approved Ways to Relieve Hot Flashes7 Expert-Approved Ways to Relieve Hot Flashes7 Expert-Approved Ways to Relieve Hot Flashes7 Expert-Approved Ways to Relieve Hot Flashes
There are many things you can do to minimize this annoying symptom, which for some starts during perimenopause.
Start Slideshow
Why Anxiety Could be a Sign of Menopause
Why Anxiety Could be a Sign of Menopause

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.