Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sex after Menopause: Good Vibrations magazine

I was pleased to be interviewed by The GV Weekly about sex after menopause. Excerpts are reprinted below -- you can view the whole interview here. Update: this interview is no longer on the original site, sorry.

Menopause Q&A with Joan Price

Recently The GV Weekly sat down Joan Price, http://www.joanprice.com/, advocate for ageless sexuality and author of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty, to clear up some of the mysteries surrounding sex and menopause.

1) What are some of the possible effects of menopause on sexuality? What sorts of things can folks expect and what are some ways to respond to them?
Many women experience hot flashes, night sweats, sleep deprivation, and mood swings – which sometimes feel like PMS on steroids! – and who can get in the mood for sex with all that going on? Trust me – it gets better after menopause, once your system calms down and adjusts to hormonal changes. Meanwhile, communicate clearly with your partner and your family, and try to take time for yourself – a “pause” – while you’re going through this emotional and physiological upheaval.

Once the extreme changes have ebbed, the ongoing challenges from diminishing estrogren at menopause and beyond include decreased vaginal lubrication and thinning of the labia and vaginal tissues. These changes can result in painful intercourse, a burning or stinging sensation, or even tearing. In addition, we may take much longer to become aroused and, after arousal, to reach orgasm.

For both of those challenges, it’s crucial to use a good, slippery lubricant. Even if you think you’re wet enough, your natural lubrication has changed – it’s thinner and less protective for your more delicate tissues. So experiment with a slick lube that feels good and doesn’t dry out or get tacky quickly. Personally, I love both Liquid Silk, which feels most like natural lubrication and stays moist through prolonged sex, and Eros, which is very slippery and comfortable.

Never use Vaseline, baby oil, cooking oil, or other greasy stuff you might have on hand. These are difficult to clean out of your vagina and can cause irritation or even infection. Use a lubricant made specifically for sexual comfort and pleasure.

You can buy samples of several different lubricants to find the one(s) that you and your partner prefer. Rather than being embarrassed about needing lubricant, make it part of your sex play by letting your partner apply it gently with caresses.

2) What are some of the relationship changes that people going through menopause might be dealing with? How might they choose to address them?

The hardest part is talking about it. If you feel less sexy, or more self-conscious about your aging body, or frustrated with your changing sexual responses, talk to your partner and plan ways that your new needs can be incorporated into your love play. For example, you may need to communicate that you need longer foreplay, with more whole-body touching before your lover arrives at your hot spots. You may need to change the time of day that you have sex to times that you feel a combination of relaxed and alert – maybe morning, maybe late afternoon.

It’s also helpful to do other physical activities together, such as dancing, hiking, working out or even walking the dog. Being physical together – even when the activity is not specifically sexual – can lead to a enhanced body awareness and closeness. Exercise also increases blood circulation, which – ahem! – sends more blood to your genitals and brain as well as to your muscles! You may find that you feel sexier after exercise, more open to sensual exploration, so make use of it!

Realize that as our biological drive gets less urgent, we may find that leisurely sex is more satisfying than the frantic sex that was so exciting in our youth. Even something as simple as making love in the daytime instead of after dinner (I find I can’t digest and have satisfying sex at the same time!) may make a huge difference.

Juicy is an attitude, I’ve come to realize, based not on the flow of our vaginal secretions but on physical well-being, emotional state, mental attitude, and love of sex. Here’s to post-menopausal zest – and understanding lovers!

3 comments:

  1. paula age 56July 06, 2008

    My experience with menopause and sex drive was different. I had an increase in sex drive, which started about the same time as my last period, and leveled off after about two years. From what I read and hear from friends, I'm in a minority but not alone.

    I find this interesting -- Joan's book has a whole chapter devoted to women who get more hot (desire wise) in our older years. I've pondered the reasons. Could it be because I had no children? Could it be an adult lifetime of being pretty good about what I ate and didn't eat, and using natural heath remedies when possible? Could it be my expectations? I knew hot older people when I was in my late teens, and always had this thought that sex would be better the older I got, which has proven to be true. There could also be emotional reasons. I don't know. This would be a great subject for a serious study.

    I had/still have some of the other menopause events, like hot flashes and vaginal dryness, but menopause was pretty easy for my mom, and I followed suit. Except the sex thing. As she said "Well you must have gotten your sex drive from your father!" (They've been divorced for decades, and she's happily remarried.)

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  2. True, from what I've heard and read, you're "in a minority but not alone." I don't know what the reason might be that you experienced a surge in sex drive right at menopause. Often women's estrogen gets tested, but not testosterone, which is a powerful libido indicator in women as well as men. Or, as you say, it might have been your expectations.

    Certainly I felt freer after menopause -- no more unexpected period onsets, no more PMS, no more fear of pregnancy.

    The brain is our most powerful sex organ, so your sexual heat might have been because of the other resolved issues in your life.

    Whatever the reason, I'm happy that you threw off the stereotype and enjoyed your sexual surge!

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  3. bethany spencerSeptember 05, 2008

    i'm beth and i'm 47 and began going through menopause at the early age of 34! for the first8 years it was just the hot flashes off and on along with a little uncontrollable crying and not even knowing why i was even crying to begin with! i had heard of having hot and cold flashes and i would have killed for a cold one. well now im in my most miserable stage of it and its hard on a marriage for sure! it's been severe now for 4 years,several seperations because of his not getting it. we're finallay at a place together thats working for us both but we worked hard to stay together. you have to communicate with eachother, do non sexual things like simply holding hands so the woman, me, can feel wanted not only for sex; and i had to let go and give a little too. i'm so looking forward to getting my sex drive back cuz i really do love sex and miss having that need or urge like before. i will survive this you wait and see. Joan, i just found you today and your stuck with me now! thanks

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-- Joan