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How Does Menopause Impact Sexual Desire?

Oct 01, 2020
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Menopause can bring with it a lot of changes. One of those changes can be a decrease in sexual desire. Read on to learn what can cause it and how it can be treated.

As you age, it’s normal to experience changes in sexual desire. Both men and women report a gradually decreasing sex drive with age. But, did you know women are 2-3 times more likely to be affected by dropping libido than men? 

If you’re curious about how menopause can impact sexual desire, board-certified OB/GYN Asia Mohsin, MD, and the rest of our care team at Progressive Women’s Health in Friendswood, Texas, can help. Dr. Mohsin has experience helping women manage the symptoms of menopause, including decreasing libido. 

Read on to learn more about how menopause can impact your sex drive and what you can do to reclaim it.

What is menopause?

Menopause refers to the end of your fertility. You’ve entered menopause once you haven’t had a period in 12 consecutive months. Women who stop getting their period because of breastfeeding, medication, illness, or other causes aren’t medically considered menopausal even if they’ve missed 12 consecutive periods. 

The symptoms of menopause can be constant or come and go, and for many women the symptoms can wreak havoc in their life. Unfortunately, symptoms can even begin before menopause in a stage called perimenopause. Symptoms can include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Decreased libido
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Night sweats
  • Brain fog, confusion, or forgetfulness
  • Insomnia
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

While the onset of menopause varies and can begin in your 40s, the average age for women in America is 51. While unusual, some women can experience early menopause, which is when menopause begins before age 40. 

What is libido?

Your libido is the term most frequently used to describe your sexual desire or sex drive. Sexual health is an integral part of human health, and doctors use libido as an indicator of your overall health, both mental and physical. 

The libido of both men and women is linked to the production of androgen hormones, especially testosterone. Men have about 40 times more testosterone than women, which is linked to a higher sex drive and more aggressive behavior. 

Other biological factors can also impact your libido, including the production of dopamine, which is a hormone and neurotransmitter, oxytocin, which is a neuropeptide, and steroid hormones.

How does menopause affect my libido?

Some women experience an increase in their libido when they enter menopause, but for the majority of women, their sex drive decreases. In fact, research indicates that between 68-86.5% of menopausal women struggle with low libido. 

For most women, a decreased libido isn’t caused by one factor but rather a combination of factors that are triggered by menopause. Reduced testosterone and estrogen production plays a role in decreased libido.

Lower estrogen production can also negatively impact lubrication and cause vaginal tissues to thin, which can make sex less pleasurable and even painful. Fluctuating hormones can also cause dips in mental health and further reduce interest in sex. 

Other side effects and symptoms of menopause can create stress and discomfort and make sex even less appealing. In addition, other physical changes, such as weight gain and changes in breast tissue, can cause your sexual desire to decrease. 

What can I do about changes to my libido in menopause?

If you notice changes in your libido as you go through menopause, you should discuss them with your provider. Dr. Mohsin can work with you to determine the root cause of your changing libido and recommend treatments customized for your unique needs. 

Depending on why and how your libido is changing, some of the treatments may include:

  • Using water-soluble lubricants for dryness  
  • Making lifestyle changes, such as a healthier diet and regular exercise
  • Hormone replacement therapy for all menopause symptoms
  • Low-dose hormonal contraceptives to help alleviate menopause symptoms
  • Topical estrogen for vaginal dryness and itching
  • Estrogen transdermal patches to help with all menopause symptoms
  • Brisdelle® for hot flashes
  • OSPHENA™ for painful sex during menopause
  • Intrarosa® for painful sex caused by vaginal dryness

Do you have more questions about menopause and your sex life? Dr. Mohsin and the team at Progressive Women’s Health have answers. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone. We also offer convenient messaging and telemedicine appointments.