After about 35 years of periods, the menopause comes along and puts a welcomed stop to the monthly cramps, the bloody bed sheets, and the premenstrual mood swings. But, of course, the menopause triggers major physical and mental changes that can be equally difficult to navigate - and just when you think you’ve cracked womanhood… On top of it all, your libido - and your relationship with sex more generally - enters a new stage. So how does it all play out?
BY THE ROAM TEAM 5 MIN READ
Marks the time when your period stops as a result of lower hormone levels.
The menopause marks the time when your period stops as a result of lowered hormone levels. When a year has passed since your last period, the menopause has officially taken place. The years leading up to that point, however, are usually defined by irregularities in your menstrual cycle, hot flashes, and several other unpleasant symptoms. This in-between stage is known as the ‘menopausal transition’ or ‘perimenopause’. Most women will begin perimenopause between the ages of 45 and 55 and (brace yourself) it usually lasts about 7 years, although it can go on for as long as 14.
Scientifically speaking, menopause happens when ovarian follicular function is lost, and blood oestrogen levels decrease. Translation: ovaries have two jobs. One is to release an egg monthly, and the other is to release sex hormones that encourage an embryo to implant and thrive. When both of these processes start to dwindle, menopause begins. Typically this is the point in which biology deems the female body past the point of having children, so the baby-making functions of the body say their goodbyes.
Although menopause can result in decreased sex drive, studies have not found a direct link between hormonal changes and libido. In reality, libido is affected by physical and mental changes that happen as a result of changing hormones. There’s a difference.
This means that instead of simply not wanting to have sex during or after menopause, it’s more likely that sex will be less enjoyable because of (for example) vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal walls, which might make penetration uncomfortable and potentially painful. Another cause of lowered libido are the night sweats that might accompany menopause. They affect your sleep quality, which makes you tired and sluggish, which results in less energy for having sex - it really is that simple. Other physical factors include thinning hair, weight gain, and bladder control issues. While these may not have a direct impact on sex, they do affect self-image and self-confidence.
The good news is that there are certainly remedies. Wearing cotton underwear, using over-the-counter vaginal moisturisers and lubricants, and applying oestrogen cream can majorly improve the genital discomfort that affects your sex life during menopause. If you’re looking for something hormonal, you can speak to your GP about HRT to relieve menopause symptoms. You can give Roam's libido supplements a try which contain a number of ingredients to help with menopausal symptoms.
Menopause is by no means an indication of the beginning of the end of your sex life. It’s important to remember that these fluctuations are temporary and your body will readjust to a different hormonal cycle. Beyond this, a lot of the discomfort surrounding menopause stems from the fact that these changes are new and require knowledge that you may not have needed before.
But, there still remains the mental element.
Simply put, menopause can make you feel bad about yourself. Hormonal changes can translate into mood swings, anxiety, and even depression. The physical changes can be upsetting and frustrating. But embracing the downsides paves the way for the positives to take hold. Menopause marks a new stage of the female experience where you are given the opportunity to reconnect with your body and engage with its needs in a different way. It is also an opportunity to redefine your sex life as something that is no longer linked to the desire for (or fear of) making babies. Instead, sex can be something that is singularly defined by pleasure and sensuality. By the time menopause has taken place, you are more comfortable with yourself and your desires, and you have the freedom to explore what emotionally and sexually fulfils you.
Physical remedies are now readily available in the form of over-the-counter products and hormonal replacement therapy. As far as mental transformations, there is every chance that menopause will result in renewed confidence, self-love, and self-understanding.
With love (and lube),