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Experiencing “The Change” in Your Sex Life?

Experiencing “The Change” in Your Sex Life?

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Is there such a thing as sex after menopause? Absolutely! In fact, some women report that they enjoy sex more when they no longer need to plan sex around their menstrual cycles or worry about getting pregnant. Also, women often feel more connected to their bodies and more secure in their intimate relationships at this stage of life.

However, let’s not be too Pollyanna– Going through “the change” can certainly change they way women experience sex, and for some, these changes can cause a significant degree of anxiety and frustration. As we age and approach menopause, our bodies go through profound hormonal shifts that can affect our sexual functioning, pleasure and desire:

  • The marked decrease in estrogen can make the vaginal tissues drier, thinner, and less acidic causing sex to become uncomfortable or painful, and increasing the risk of infection.
  • It generally takes more time for the vagina to become lubricated, even when you are feeling turned on.
  • Reduced blood flow to the genitals can affect sensation and sexual pleasure.
  • Hot flashes are anything but sexy and night sweats can disturb sleep, causing women to feel tired and irritable throughout the day.
  • Mood fluctuations are common, and you may find that you are just “not in the mood” for sex. Low sexual desire is one of the most common complaints of menopausal women.

BUT, don’t throw in the towel and conclude that menopause marks the end of your sex life. There are actually some simple steps that you can take to decrease menopausal symptoms, improve sexual pleasure, and give your sex drive a boost. So ladies, try some of these strategies to take the “pause” out of meno-pause and press the “reset” button on your sex life.

Use it or Lose It

The Kegel (named after Dr. Arnold Kegel) is the name for the exercise used to strengthen the pubococcygeus (PC) muscles that make up the pelvic floor. These muscles act like a hammock that supports pelvic organs: the bladder, urethra, uterus, and bowel.

Why should women do Kegel exercises? Factors such as pregnancy, childbirth, pelvic surgery (such as a cesarean section), being overweight, and the normal effects of aging can result in weakening of the PC muscles. When these pelvic floor muscles weaken, the pelvic organs can descend and bulge into the vagina, a condition referred to as pelvic organ prolapse. This condition can be associated with significant pelvic pressure and discomfort, and can contribute to leakage of urine or feces. The PC muscles are like any other muscles in the body—If they do not get a regular “work out” they become weak and eventually atrophy.Vaginal atrophy is a common problem for menopausal women. So, this really is a “use it or lose it” phenomenon!

Doing Kegel exercises regularly can help reduce the risk of urinary/bowel leakage and incontinence. Kegel exercises can also aid in the prevention and treatment of pelvic organ prolapse. These exercises are commonly recommended for pregnant women to strengthen the pelvic floor in preparation for the later stages of pregnancy and vaginal childbirth. Additionally, maintaining strong pelvic floor muscles through Kegel exercises can increase sexual satisfaction and orgasmic capacity.

How do I do Kegel exercises?

The first step is finding and isolating the PC muscles. One of the simplest ways to do this is to sit on the toilet and begin to urinate. Try to stop the flow of urine midstream. The muscles you contract in order to stop the flow of urine are the pelvic floor muscles. Repeat this action several times until you become familiar with the sensation of contracting and relaxing these PC muscles. Another technique is to insert a finger inside your vagina and try to squeeze the surrounding muscles. If you are doing this correctly, you will be able to feel your vagina tighten when you squeeze and release as you relax. Once you have identified the PC muscles, you are ready to start your Kegel workout:

  1. Empty your bladder and get into a comfortable position (sitting or lying down)
  2. Contract your pelvic floor muscles
  3. Hold the contraction for four seconds and then relax for four seconds
  4. Repeat 10 times, three times per day
  5. Work up to contracting and relaxing for 10 seconds at a time, three times per day

No special “attire” required
The beauty of Kegel exercises is that they can be done anywhere at any time.  You don’t need to belong to a gym or own any fancy outfits in order to do them, and you won’t even break a sweat!   Only you and your vagina will know you’re exercising!

Take good care of your body:

Your overall health affects your sexual health and sexual functioning. Be sure to have regular check-ups with your doctor, and get proper treatment for any medical conditions. Ask your doctor about potential sexual side effects of medications that you may be prescribed. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Smoking poses a host of health-related concerns, and it can also impede sexual arousal and response. The same is true for high levels of alcohol and caffeine. Work on reducing or eliminating smoking and keep your alcohol and caffeine intake at a low to moderate level. Avoid strong soaps and bubble baths as they can irritate the vagina.

Get-up-and-go:

  Make sure you are getting enough exercise. You don’t need to go to the gym for hours on end—just work on getting your body moving with some daily physical activity. Go for a brisk walk; take the stairs instead of the elevator; do some jumping jacks during the commercial breaks of your favourite TV show; practice yoga. Physical activity improves blood flow and circulation, including to the genitals, which increases sensation and sensitivity. Exercise also helps to boost your energy, increase your strength and endurance, lift your mood, decrease stress, and promotes more restful sleep…all of which can improve your sex drive! Kegel exercises are designed to specifically strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, aiding in the prevention and treatment of pelvic organ prolapse—a common problem for menopausal women. Doing these pelvic floor exercises has also been shown to improve pelvic blood flow and sensation, and enhance sexual pleasure.

Use a personal lubricant:  

A lack of vaginal lubrication can make sexual activity and intercourse very uncomfortable, and can increase the risk of vaginal and urinary tract infections. Using a personal lubricant adds moisture and slipperiness to the vagina, which can make sex much more comfortable and pleasurable.  Lubricants come in a variety of water-based, oil-based, and silicone-based formulas, and they can be purchased over-the-counter at your local pharmacy.

Explore your body- intimately

As women age, they often find that they require more, longer, and/or different types of stimulation in order to arouse them and bring them to orgasm. Engaging in self-pleasuring (or masturbation) can help you to learn more about your own body and the types of sensations, touch, and stimulation that you find most pleasurable. Having a good understanding of how to turn yourself on will help enable you to teach your partner how to please you sexually. Self-pleasuring is normal, healthy, and good for you and your libido — at any age!

Try using natural supplements:

Many women report experiencing significant improvements in sexual desire, response and satisfaction, as well as increased vaginal lubrication while using a natural libido supplement such as femMED Libido. Look for supplements containing a doctor-formulated combination of natural ingredients such as L-arginine, Tribulus, Terrestris and Gingko Biloba. These ingredients have been demonstrated to help to encourage pelvic blood flow and lubrication, increase free testosterone and improve sexual desire. There are also natural supplements available that target sleep disturbance and other menopausal symptoms, such as femMED Sleep and femMED Menopause Relief.

Have more sex: 

Believe it or not, sexual activity in and of itself is good for you and for your vagina. Becoming aroused during sex increases blood flow to the genitals, which helps to keep the tissues healthy. So, here’s the drill:

1) Try the above strategies to make sex feel better

2) When sex feels better you will likely want more of it

3) Have more sex

4) Repeat step one!

Still not convinced? Here are 13 reasons why sex is good for you:

  1. Sex can help relieve your stress and lower your blood pressure
  2.  Sex can boost your immunity and help protect you from common colds and flu
  3.  Sex burns calories, strengthens your muscles, and can help keep you physically fit
  4.  Sex contributes to more positive self-esteem
  5.  Sex gets your heart pumping and improves heart health
  6.  Sex makes you sweat, which cleanses the skin and helps to improve your complexion
  7.  Sex promotes a sense of calm and relaxation
  8.  Sex contributes to a deeper and more restful sleep
  9.  Sex is a natural pain reliever
  10.  Sex provides protection against prostate cancer
  11.  Sex strengthens the vagina and pelvic floor, which intensifies orgasms and reduces the risk of pelvic organ prolapse
  12.  Sex releases endorphins (the body’s feel-good chemicals), which can improve your mood
  13. Sex strengthens a couples’ intimate connection

So, good sex is indeed good for you…and good for your relationship.   Taking care of your health also means taking charge of your sexual health. Be kind to your body, and nourish your sexual relationships. Make intimacy a priority and do what you can to spice up the quality of your sex life (check out my blog on “10 Tips To Spice Up Your Sex Life“). By taking some simple steps, you can really steam up your Valentine’s Day…or any day (or night)!  Whoever thought that getting healthy could feel so good!

Kelli Young
Kelli Young earned her degree in occupational therapy in 1992 from the University of Western Ontario. She is a registered occupational therapist with training, certification and expertise in the areas of Marriage and Family Therapy, and Sex Therapy. Since 1992 she has worked in the Eating Disorders Program at the Toronto General Hospital where she provides group, individual, family and couple therapy. She also has a private practice in Toronto. Read her full bio here.

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