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Flame of desire all but extinguished

Is it common for women to lose interest in sex after menopause?

QUESTION:

Is it common for women to lose interest in sex after menopause? I stopped menstruating 12 months ago. I had few symptoms, and accepted hormone changes could account for my lack of enthusiasm. If this is the reason, how long is it likely to last? I have always enjoyed sex but now a cuddle is enough. I just can’t be bothered.

ANSWER: 

Many things affect sexual desire including the length and nature of your relationship, hormone levels, stress, overall health and fitness, and the quality of your sex life.

What is the main factor in your case and is this a real concern for you? Do you want to enjoy sex again or are you happy with a cuddle at this stage of your life and your relationship?

A purely medical approach would dictate you test your hormone levels with your GP and consider hormone replacement therapy. However, if as you say you are losing interest in sex because you “can’t be bothered” it seems unlikely this is either appealing or an answer to your problem. Some women experience pain with intercourse throughout menopause (defined as one year’s absence of menstruation; ruling out other pathology/causes for this).

Changes to the vagina during menopause can cause difficulties, ranging from discomfort and burning to severe pain on penetration (called genito pelvic pain – penetration disorder). This can lead to a loss of desire or motivation for sex. Much can be done about this beyond the recommendation to use more lubricant.

You may not be in a relationship or attracted to men. Regardless of your identity or status, sexual practices can be changed to better suit you and adapt to ageing. All couples need to do this during different life stages such as the birth of a child. If you have a partner, talking it though, and having a couple approach is important.

Consider whether you have any motivation to be sexual at all. It does sound as though intimacy and pleasure could still be desired and women mostly do reach orgasm through outercourse. Do you or your partner(s) know how to bring you to orgasm? Some people take intercourse or penetrative practices completely off the table for a period of time, which can take that pressure or expectation away and improve things immediately.

If sex has fallen down the list of priorities for other reasons, there are other options. Negotiate what is good enough (or possible) between you and a partner right now, sexually (eg a period where all there is on offer is a cuddle, or where touch is only to be initiated by you). This may be good for you or your sex drive.

Consider self-care, especially if life’s demands are too much or your energy is not as it used to be. Maybe your partner’s demands for sex are unrealistic or unacceptable to you now.

Mental health and well-being are vital considerations along with good communication and compromise in any relationship you are in or you may enter into. You are not alone in feeling the way you do and talking to someone will help. You can chat on your own or as a couple with a sexual health counsellor at SHine SA or Relationships Australia SA, to consider what and how to re-negotiate what you are happy to do/not do together sexually.

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