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Managing Menopause

Sex matters during and after menopause

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Dr Louise R Newson

BSc(Hons) MBChB(Hons) MRCP FRCGP, GP and Menopause Specialist

From the Abstract Presented at the British Menopause Society Annual Conference

Mr Nicholas Panay


Department of Gynaecology, Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital and Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, London

Having been in their sexual peak in their thirties, women’s 40s could be seen as the beginning of the end when it comes to sexual activity. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

A study has shown that at 43, just 12 years after their sexual peak, women are having the least amount of intercourse.

The women surveyed consider stress, having kids, along with the onset of the menopause – and its symptoms including mood changes, vaginal dryness and weight gain – among the reasons why. 

Further to this, four out of 10 admitted this slump has had a negative impact on their relationship and 45% have felt less sexy as a result.

One third of 40 to 50 year olds said vaginal dryness or discomfort is the biggest hindrance to having sex – ahead of hot flushes.

Dr Louise Newson, a menopause specialist, explains: “This survey highlights how many women are struggling with the perimenopause and menopause, and the negative impact it is having on their sex lives, relationships and confidence.”

We need to talk about uncomfortable sex

Stress is one of biggest reasons for the slump in sex lives, along with working long hours, having children and onset of the menopause.

One of the most painful symptoms of the menopause and perimenopause is vaginal dryness.

Nearly half of women over 50 blame infrequent sex on vaginal dryness or vaginal discomfort. In fact, two-thirds of all women have avoided intercourse as a direct result of previous pain when having sex; and similarly, 38% have dreaded the possibility they might have sex because they’re anxious it might cause soreness.

Worryingly though, the survey shows that women would rather suffer in silence than discuss their discomfort with their partner.

“A quarter of women don’t want to talk about sexual discomfort, even with their partners.” Says Newson.

“Symptoms like vaginal dryness should not be a reason for adversely affected relationships. There is no need for women to suffer, but there is a lack of education around what they can use and this can lead to more problems.   

“There is a difference between vaginal moisturisers, which work to stimulate and restore the natural pH of the vagina, and lubricants that are used during sex.” 

Sex is important in a loving relationship

The majority of those polled (56%) said their partner was, or continues to be, supportive during the menopause; but 27% revealed their other-half has not been supportive.

However, overall, 72% of women polled said sex in a loving relationship is ‘important’.

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