Six important messages about sex and menopause
It feels as if we are in the midst of a menopause revolution here in the UK. No longer a taboo topic which even those going through it won't talk about with each other, instead it's cropping up on mainstream TV, bestseller book lists, workplace policies, the school curriculum, newspaper article, IG Lives and more.
If you’re reading this as someone without a uterus, or at an age where you think “that doesn’t affect me yet” – it does affect you, as it affects the physical, mental and emotional health of so many women around you. So read on.
Every few weeks brings positive steps, including in autumn 2022, game-changing vaginal oestrogen pessaries* becoming available without prescription in pharmacies. These stop internal tissues drying out due to falling oestrogen levels, and so allow for penetrative sex – basically it’s the vagina’s equivalent of Viagra. Like Viagra, the product isn’t an aphrodisiac – the person still has to desire sex. But it enables penetration to happen more easily, and makes all other types of vaginal play more possible and enjoyable.
[Beyond that, the pessaries make day to day life much more comfortable, if dryness was causing pain and discomfort. If you have a penis – imagine erectile dysfunction paired with constant burning pain, and how much that would affect your desire for intimacy. Imagine you don’t understand what’s wrong and feel very embarrassed. If your partner is a midlife woman (or younger but experiencing medically-induced menopause), that’s what she might be going through. No wonder she’s turning you down and changing the subject whenever you try to initiate!]
Far from being a time for women to put their sex life into retirement, midlife is becoming framed as a new beginning. It’s not just physical support with symptoms that’s needed however – for many there needs to be a dismantling of the negative, restricting beliefs about sex in midlife and beyond.
"Sex stops at menopause"… "Older bodies are not desirable"… "If the genital area is out of action then sex is off the table" (NO! – our entire bodies can be a playground)… "You can’t revive the spark in a long-term relationship"… All these can be proven false when a person shifts their mindset.
I know as a sex coach, that midlife women can have huge interest in rebooting their intimate lives, with spectacular results: when medical support (if needed) goes hand-in-hand with education and self-discovery. As the reproductive hormones that had her putting others first since puberty decline, a woman begins to want to prioritise herself again. Where this is possible and supported, it’s a time of vibrant growth.
How can we support women/ourselves in the menopausal transition and beyond, to enjoy nourishing sexual lives? Here are the messages I believe we need to amplify:
Sex isn’t over when you reach midlife!
The whole body is a playground, not just the traditional erogenous zones
The more education the better (see some resources below)
Seek medical support for troubling symptoms
Follow new interests – online workshops are an ideal starting point (tantra, kink, shibari, consensual non-monogamy…)
Talk about menopause more openly
Here are some resources:
The Balance App from leading meno specialist Dr Louise Newson – track symptoms then generate a print-out to take to doctor’s visits:
Davina McCalls’ ground-breaking ‘Sex, Myths & The Menopause’ documentary:
Postcards From Midlife podcast and Facebook group - “I’ve been there!” support in buckets:
Postcards episode about sex, featuring the work of yours truly:
The Menopause Charity – info and training including for workplaces and medical professionals:
Menopause is a transition in a person’s life. So are illness, accidents, life events such as getting married, ageing generally… Transitions don’t mean an end to sex, they mean a reframe and an opportunity for new learning.
Have another look at the messages I want amplified, and you may see they mostly relate to you too, whether you’re menopausal or not.
Which will you start to act on?
*https://www.mygina.co.uk/ - now available without prescription in UK pharmacies, subject to meeting certain criteria and a discussion with the pharmacist.