5 Sex & Menopause Myths You Can Stop Believing
If you feel like you’ve got more than enough information about menopause symptoms--the weight changes, mood swings, and hot flashes--and not nearly enough answers to your questions about sex and menopause, this post is for you. Menopause is inevitable, but the decline of your sex life doesn’t have to be.
Since September is Menopause Month, we’re doing a little mythbusting for you, focusing on all the things you want to know but might be afraid to ask about sex before, during, and after menopause.
Myth #1: It’s time to say “sayonara” to your sex life.
Fact: They didn’t nickname it “the change” for nothing. While menopausal symptoms can coincide with or even contribute to a decline in your libido, it’s not necessarily a sentencing to sexlessness. As your body changes, you may simply need to switch up your approach and perspective to continue to enjoy your sex life.
The North American Menopause Society notes that there are many factors to consider when addressing the relationship between sex and menopause, starting with an obvious but often-overlooked question: Do the changes you’re experiencing bother you or your partner? If you notice a decrease in your desire for sex but it’s not affecting your relationship, you may not see your sexual symptoms as a problem or dysfunction at all. On the other hand, if you used to enjoy an active sex life which has been made impossible by pain or dryness and it’s become a source of distress, it’s totally normal--and healthy--to want to seek a solution.
So what can you do? First, if your symptoms affect your sex life in a way you just can’t accept, see your doctor. They can help you identify whether your symptoms are purely due to menopause and hormonal changes, or whether they’re connected to other factors like stress, illness, medication, or depression.
Second, experiment and change your approach! If your doctor recommends trying a lubricant to deal with dryness and discomfort, take your time and try a couple to decide whether you like a water-based lube or silicone-based lube best. (We hope we don’t have to tell you that this research should be fun.)
Myth #2: Pain and dryness with sex during menopause are inevitable.
Fact: If you experience vaginal dryness and pain with sex during menopause, know that this does not have to be your new normal. True, your hormones are changing and your body may not be able to produce natural lubrication the way it once did, and the subsequent dryness can lead to irritation and pain. The good news is, there are myriad options to address this bothersome issue. If you usually only experience discomfort during sex, a gentle lubricant may be just the thing to add to your repertoire (read on for our tips on choosing a good one).
Myth #3: Lube, vaginal moisturizers, and medications all do the same thing to combat dryness and discomfort; it doesn’t matter what you use.
Fact: Oh, it matters. While moisturizers and medication may be appropriate if you’re dealing with persistent daily dryness or more severe symptoms, lubes have one job: provide the necessary slipperiness that makes sex more comfortable and enjoyable. They’re designed to add extra hydration during sexual activities whether you’re getting down solo, with a toy, or with a partner, and they’re great for anyone who wants to enjoy an extra-silky slip in the moment. Your body won’t absorb lubes like it does moisturizers, though; even the best and most long-lasting formula isn’t a treatment for dryness, per se, nor will its hydrating effects last much longer than your romp.
As Lauren Streicher, MD and Medical Director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause says, that’s all the more reason to have a great lube at the ready. Since sex involves friction, adding a lubricant is essential to protect those delicate vaginal tissues. “I tell every woman I treat with a prescription medication or after I do a vaginal laser procedure to treat dryness and painful intercourse that they are going to continue to need a lubricant. It's even more important than ever to use something that's not irritating.”
Myth #4: True menopause is the only time you’ll need extra lubrication.
Fact: Nope! According to the Women’s Health Network, “The average age for menopause is 52, but you may start anywhere from your late 30s to your early 60s.” Perimenopause--the transitional time in which your hormones start to fluctuate, causing many of the symptoms commonly associated with menopause--can last up to 15 years before you’re truly in menopause. Avoiding sex because of dryness and pain for that long certainly doesn’t sound practical OR pleasant, does it?
Even women who aren’t experiencing natural menopause can benefit from using lube: Illness, surgery, and medications can all wreak havoc and cause discomfort. Dr. Streicher confirms that it’s not just perimenopausal and postmenopausal women using lubricants: “Every day in my Center for Sexual Medicine for Menopause we see young women there in their 20s and 30s who are being treated for cancer, who have had radiation. There are women who are postpartum. There are women who may have dryness because of their hormonal contraception.” Anyone, she says, can get irritation, and the most immediate, effective solution? Lube on up with something gentle and safe for your body like our Aloe-ahh or H2Oh! formulas, both of which were designed and approved by gynecologists.
Myth #5: All lubes are created equal, so the first one you see will be perfect for you and your partner.
Can we make an educated guess about you, reader? You’re not the type to just run into the grocery store and inexplicably deviate from your favorite brand of yogurt, nor would you switch facial moisturizers without researching what that hot new ingredient is supposed to do (and you might even run it by your dermatologist first). So why would you breeze through the drugstore aisles and grab just any old lube? Here’s the thing: If it’s going in your vagina--or anywhere else in or on your body, for that matter--you really need to know what’s in your lube.
Before you choose one, get familiar with the ingredients, what they do, and how they can affect your body. You may be surprised by how many lubes contain additives that can actually cause further irritation, burning, itching, and discomfort, like the ones found in many warming lubes. Once you know what to avoid in a lube, you can look for one that does what it’s supposed to do: make sex comfortable, pleasurable, and possible at any age.