There’s a lot that doesn’t ring true about Sex and the City. Like Carrie’s outrageous closet on her freelance writer budget (I would know) and the romanticization of a toxic male like Mr. Big (yeah, I said it). But something that still holds up is when Samantha (Kim Cattrall), arguably the horniest of the SATC quad, went through menopause, a.k.a. a roller coaster of hormones. Among the many changes of the ‘change‘ is its effect on sexual desire and function, which, whether you’re a Samantha or not, might freak you out. If you’re post-menopause, you might be wondering if there’s still sex in the, uh, city? The short answer: Yes, there’s still sex after menopause. Here’s what to expect.
Does sex after menopause hurt?
Unfortunately, yes, it can. Painful sex and vaginal dryness are common symptoms of sex after menopause. According to Dr. Mache Seibel, MD, OBGYN, and leading expert in menopause, it’s due to lower estrogen levels, “which causes the vaginal tissues to become narrower, shorter, thinner and less lubricated. It basically feels tighter and those changes cause women to require much more time to lubricate the tissues and to feel more friction when having sex,” he tells Scary Mommy. Often the symptoms don’t occur when menopause begins, but start a few years later when the low estrogen levels have had time to allow these changes to happen.
However Seibel is quick to point out that sex doesn’t necessarily need to hurt after menopause. “The tissues of the vagina area are able to respond to local estrogen and regain their more youthful qualities,” he says. “There are also over the counter remedies available as well to increase vaginal moisture such as Replens, which does not contain estrogen.”
Is your vagina different after menopause?
In short, yes. Your vagina is a wonderful thing that can handle a lot, like deep penetration and pushing out babies. The fact that it can do all of these magical things depends heavily on estrogen. “After puberty, when estrogen levels rise, the walls of the vagina develop folds called rugae that are able to stretch, much like the sleeve of a sweater allows your hand to go through, or a sock stretches to allow it to go on your foot,” says Seibel. “That’s why the vagina is able to allow a baby to pass through it and also able to accommodate a partner for intimacy. After menopause, as estrogen levels drop, the elastic folds of the vagina flatten and the tissues narrow and shorten.” This is why after menopause your next gynecology exam feels uncomfortable and why sex might be less pleasurable.
So is sex after menopause healthy for the vagina?
Yes! Sex after menopause is an example of use it or lose it. “The act of intercourse helps to maintain the vaginal tissue’s natural width and length and also helps to maintain lubrication and moisture,” says Seibel. “For women who remain sexually active after menopause, many will continue to avoid painful sex even without taking estrogen.” So if you want to keep your vagina happy and healthy, get it on!
Does menopause affect your sex drive?
Oh, yeahhhh. For some women, their sex drive will actually increase after menopause. This has been attributed to a new balance of hormones and also, well, since there’s no chance of becoming pregnant, women be like, “Bring it on!” But for others, menopause can decrease their libido. It’s not totally surprising since lower estrogen levels can make sex uncomfortable or painful, which is a huge mood killer. Not only do you feel not very sexy but if your partner feels like they’re hurting you every time you have sex, it can affect their own interest in sex. And according to Seibel, if your partner is a man, it might even affect his ability to have an erection.
The good news is that your low libido is treatable; the not-so-great news is that not many women share with their doctors their sex issues. So if you are having a problem with your vagina or sexual desire, be sure to let your healthcare provider know about it.
Does menopause affect orgasms?
It can. According to the North American Menopause Society, the hormonal and vaginal changes of menopause can affect enjoyment of sex and ability to achieve orgasm. Your orgasms might be less intense, take longer to achieve, or rarely happen at all. Uh-oh. So what can you do to bring back the big O? According to the Family Planning Association, there are a few things you can do. For starters, doing regular pelvic floor exercises like Kegels can help increase vaginal sensation and intensify orgasms. Another option is using masturbation as a way of rediscovering what you like and how you like to be touched, without the pressure of trying to achieve an orgasm with a partner. Introducing sex toys into your bedroom romp can help take the focus and pressure off having penetrative sex, and help you explore new and different ways to find sexual satisfaction. And also, lube it up. It’s safe to say that sex after menopause should always include lots and lots of lube.
Written by Brianne Hogan.