Education and awareness are key to dispelling the misconceptions surrounding intimacy during and after menopause, ensuring that women are informed about their bodily changes and empowered to prioritize their sexual well-being. In the realm of women’s health, conditions and diseases unique to women are often overlooked. On the Self-Care Goddess podcast episode #102, Dr Shyama Mathews a board certified OBGYN, minimally invasive gynecologic surgeon and a certified menopause specialist points out that there is a noticeable gap in attention once women transition out of their reproductive years. This blog aims to shed light on the importance of addressing women’s health concerns beyond reproduction, focusing particularly on intimacy and sexual health at different life stages.
The following information are just a few of the golden nuggets from my insightful conversation. Listen to the entire episode here.
Breaking the Silence on Intimacy
Intimacy is one of the frequent concerns raised by patients struggling to maintain a healthy sex life. Intimacy faces different challenges at various life stages, making it imperative to openly discuss these matters. Unfortunately, societal stigma often leads many women to feel ashamed or uncomfortable addressing intimacy and sexual issues with their healthcare providers. Creating an open dialogue is essential, encouraging women to express their concerns with gynaecologists. Concerns about intimacy are legitimate and warrant attention. Often, women approaching perimenopause or menopause encounter negative perceptions and assumptions regarding their sexual desires. With the average age of menopause being around 50 and women living well into their 80s and 90s, there are decades of life left to explore and enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of intimacy. Changing the narrative around menopause is crucial, focusing on education and emphasizing the importance of maintaining intimacy during and after this transition.
Listen to the Self-Care Goddess Podcast episode #62, “Embody Your Full Potential: Break Free From Fears & False Perceptions.”
Understanding Physiological Changes
Why is it essential to maintain intimacy and a sexual connection post-menopause?
While individual preferences vary, for some women, intimacy is an integral aspect of their identity, serving as a component of their love language and a means of communication in relationships. It is a way of interacting with their bodies, a knowledge and connection developed over the years. Upon reaching menopause, it shouldn’t be assumed that the body simply prohibits it altogether. If intimacy holds significance for you and plays a vital role in maintaining a connection with your partner, there are ways to sustain it. The physiological changes that occur during menopause might present challenges or discomfort, but that doesn’t mean resigning oneself to its demise. Instead, proactive measures can be taken to counteract these changes and ensure that intimacy remains a fulfilling and ongoing part of one’s life.
Generally, menopause brings about a significant alteration in hormone levels, marked by a substantial decrease in estrogen and progesterone. This hormonal shift is a gradual process, with fluctuations occurring during the years leading up to menopause, known as perimenopause. Menopause is officially declared after a full year without a menstrual period, indicating the completion of the transition. During this period, the diminishing estrogen levels impact organs sensitive to estrogen, particularly the vagina, vaginal mucosa, and vulva. The anatomy, architecture, and quality of these organs undergo changes, affecting lubrication, elasticity, and overall comfort. For many women, this alteration can result in discomfort and even pain during intercourse. While such changes are common during menopause, it is important to note that experiencing discomfort does not mean resigning oneself to:
- Enduring painful intercourse
- Abandoning the idea of intimacy due to discomfort or lack of enjoyment.
Get the step-by-step guide to starting your day right and learn how to drop stubborn weight from the trouble areas that are resistant to diet and exercise! Download your FREE copy of the Savoia Self-Care Morning Routine.
Recommendations For Improving Intimacy
There are practical recommendations and interventions that can significantly improve the overall intimate experience such as:
- Quality Lubricants: Over-the-counter options can provide essential moisture and enhance comfort during intimacy. Consider them as a positive enhancement to the experience, fostering connection and reducing friction that might lead to discomfort and pain.
- Vaginal Moisturizers: Over-the-counter vaginal moisturizers assist in improving the pH balance of the vaginal mucosa. The loss of estrogen during menopause alters the pH and can disrupt the balance of healthy bacteria and yeast, leading to dryness, infections, and UTIs. Regular use of a moisturizer, different from a lubricant, helps replenish moisture, requiring application twice a week for maintenance.
- Local Vaginal Estrogen Therapy: While hormones may have a negative connotation, local estrogen therapy is safe and effective, replenishing hormone levels locally to address physiological changes. Since it is absorbed locally and doesn’t have the systemic effects associated with traditional hormone replacement therapy. Suppositories or creams, administered locally into the vaginal area usually involves a bi-weekly regimen. External application to the vulva can also enhance tissue health.
- Communication: Open communication with a partner is crucial. Express that the changes you’re experiencing don’t diminish your care or love instead it’s a part of your body’s natural processes, and you’re actively reassessing and seeking ways to adapt. Consider exploring alternative forms of intimacy or spending more time on different types of touching during foreplay. Be open to the idea that what worked before may need adjustment due to anatomical changes. Trust your partner to support and explore these changes together.
I invite you to read my interesting blog post “How To Build YOUR Resilience?”
Non-Hormonal Approaches to Menopause Management
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is an individualized approach to buffer hormonal losses during the menopausal transition. It aims to provide a soft landing during the challenging period of hormonal fluctuation, addressing debilitating symptoms that impact relationships, work, and overall well-being. HRT is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and not every woman going through menopause needs it. Exploring non-hormonal options, such as supplements, herbals, acupuncture, and mindfulness, can be effective in managing symptoms. Being aware of these options empowers women to make informed decisions about their health based on individual needs and preferences.
- Recognizing Menopausal Symptoms:
Menopausal symptoms can manifest five to seven years before the transition, often beginning in the mid to late 40s. Awareness and education about these symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and changes in metabolism and libido, are crucial. Recognizing the early signs enables proactive management.
- Holistic Lifestyle Approaches:
Implement holistic lifestyle changes to manage menopausal symptoms effectively. Breathwork, sauna sessions, and functional breathing coaching can help alleviate hot flashes by regulating the nervous system. Lifestyle modifications, including maintaining an active routine, managing body fat, and adopting a nutrient-rich diet, play key roles in mitigating the impact of slowing metabolism.
- Tailored Approaches to Exercise and Diet:
Individual responses to exercise and dietary changes vary. Work with professionals, such as nutritionists, to develop a personalized plan that aligns with your body’s needs. A long-term commitment to a lifestyle change, rather than quick-fix fad diets, is essential for effectively managing menopausal symptoms.
I invite you to listen to the Self-Care Goddess podcast episode #11 “Nutritional & Lifestyle Tips for Increasing Your Metabolism” with Jane Pulkys.
Expanding the Notion of Libido
Libido encompasses more than just the physical aspect; it also involves emotional and mental components. Women often express concerns about low sex drive or libido, prompting the need to unpack this notion. It is crucial to recognize that libido is not a simple on/off switch; it involves physical comfort, psychological confidence, and emotional well-being.
Physical factors, including comfort and pain during sex, contribute to libido levels. Addressing physical aspects is often the initial step in improving libido. Beyond the physical, body confidence and self-confidence play pivotal roles, blending psychological and mental elements into libido. Additionally, various life stressors, such as career adjustments, family dynamics, and relationship strains also impact libido. Libido experiences differ between men and women, with women often facing more intricate challenges. For men, the focus may be more on physical aspects, but emotional and mental considerations are still present, particularly as they age. Unlike men, women may encounter unique challenges that require a holistic approach to libido enhancement.
Do you know “How to Focus on What You Want to Happen Using NLP?” Listen to the Self-Care Goddess Podcast episode #21.
Techniques for Libido Boost
- Breathing techniques, such as humming, can positively influence libido by increasing nitric oxide, akin to the mechanism used in medications like Viagra. Nasal breathing, especially through humming, provides fresh oxygenated blood, offering a unique and intriguing approach to enhancing libido without the need for medications.
- Maintaining strong and healthy sexual organs involves a holistic approach. Paying attention to pelvic floor health, evaluating tension or weakness, and considering pelvic floor physical therapy can positively impact overall well-being. Incorporating these aspects into daily routines fosters a proactive stance toward sexual health.
- Encouraging women to prioritize self-care is essential, considering the tendency to prioritize others’ needs before their own. Women are caregivers by nature, often neglecting their well-being until circumstances become dire. Embracing self-care is not selfish but a necessary aspect of overall health and vitality.
Take Home Message
Aiming not just for happiness but also for excitement and passion is crucial for a fulfilling life. Whether in career choices, family dynamics, or leisure activities, pursuing what excites and ignites passion can contribute to a renewed sense of love and care in all aspects of life. Embrace self-love and acknowledge the goddess within, recognizing that self-care is a beautiful and empowering endeavour.
Listen to the full podcast episode #102 on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.
For free guided meditation videos and Breathwork demonstrations subscribe to my YouTube channel.
I look forward to connecting with you and learning more about your story and your health and wellness goals. Schedule a FREE introduction call here.