anonymous on September 9, 2011

What happens to a woman’s sexuality during menopause?

My wife is going through menopause...what’s happening in her body to cause menopause, and what will it mean for our sex life?

answered by Annette Fuglsang Owens, MD, PhD on September 9, 2011

Excellent question! And it’s great that you’re thinking about this now as a couple.

During menopause, the ovaries stop producing eggs and women stop having their periods. What does that mean?Well, your wife will no longer be able to become pregnant…menopause is basically the end of the fertile time of a woman’s life.

Also, starting with menopause, the ovaries produce less and less estrogen and progesterone…which can affect women in different ways.

Some women sail through menopause and don’t notice any significant changes. Other women may experience hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings. And because estrogen helps keep the vaginal tissue thick, healthy and lubricated, some women experience vaginal dryness as their hormone levels change.

If this happens, using lubricant can help make intercourse more comfortable. And some women also use vaginal moisturizer…these are basically little suppositories that women can put in their vagina to help keep it moist (but they’re not used during sex).

Additionally, depending on doctors’ recommendations, Hormone Therapy (HT) may also be beneficial to some women, to help balance out any problematic side-effects of menopause.

How does menopause affect a woman’s sex drive? Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. There may be no noticeable change; or your wife may experience a lower sex drive or lower libido. Or, she may actually develop a higher sex drive!  

Some women feel a little freer and less inhibited, sexually, when they’re no longer worried about pregnancy and birth control. Additionally, menopause often coincides with other life changes…for example, around this same time, your kids (if you have any) may be old enough to leave home, which can also feel somewhat liberating for women and their partners.

Bottom line: no one can say exactly what you and your wife will experience during her menopause…so the most important thing you can do is to keep the lines of communication open, and for her to keep up with her regular doctor’s visits.

Whatever changes come along, I suggest that you be proactive as a couple about finding the answers you need. Your thoughtful question indicates to me that you’re already on the right path.

I wish you both good luck and good health!

Related info:

Annette Fuglsang Owens, MD, PhD

Dr. Owens is an AASECT-certified sexuality counselor. Her areas of expertise include the medical aspects of human sexuality and sexual problems, as well as the impact of STDs ⎼ and other diseases, illnesses and disabilities ⎼ on sexuality. Dr. Owens was educated at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

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