I'm going through menopause, and I'm noticing that my sex drive is shifting. As someone who has never experimented with sex toys (but might be open to trying!), what are your best tips and recommendations for me so I can learn how to enjoy sex during menopause?
Menopause is a transformative time in a person’s life. During this natural part of aging, your menstruation cycle begins to decrease until it ceases altogether. As this happens, the body gradually adjusts, and just as is the case with all transitions, some aspects of menopause are exciting and others skew more frustrating. For many people experiencing menopause, changes in sex drive and sexual pleasure are among the most crushing. But sex can (and should—if that’s what you want, of course!) be enjoyed throughout the different stages of menopause.
What's key in learning how to enjoy sex during menopause is cultivating a baseline understanding of its potential effects on sex drive. Then, you can make shifts and embrace tools to help facilitate the sexual pleasure we all deserve to have.
Why menopause can lead to a shifted sex drive
Menopause marks the stage of life when a person's reproductive cycle slows down and prepares to stop. The ovaries begin producing less estrogen, which changes your menstrual cycle until it halts. Naturally declining levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone (the main sex hormones), also tend to decrease sex drive and the ability to feel sexually aroused.
And while menopause typically occurs when someone is in their late forties and early fifties, some people can begin to feel symptoms—including a lowered sex drive—of the initial stages in their thirties or even sooner in certain cases (like if ovaries have been removed during a hysterectomy, for example).
How each stage of menopause may impact sex drive
Throughout the stages of menopause—primarily perimenopause and menopause—it’s normal to experience a decrease in sex drive. As levels of estrogen begin to fluctuate and decrease, people may experience thinning, drying, and inflammation of the vaginal lining. This can lead to discomfort during sex, or even pain during sex. Additionally, the physical changes people experience can also lead to emotional and mental-health changes, like stress, anxiety, and depression, which can also reduce one’s sexual desire even more. Here's what to expect at each stage:
- Perimenopause: Perimenopause commences the menopause process, about 10 years before official menopause. During this stage, the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen. Estrogen, among many other hormones, is a critical part of our sex drive, primarily responsible for vaginal lubrication.
- Menopause: Menopause occurs when someone doesn’t experience a period for 12 consecutive months. At this stage, the ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and producing most of their estrogen. In addition to hot flashes, insomnia, and fatigue, many report irritation in the vagina. The lowered levels of estrogen can exacerbate dryness, inflammation and pain in the vagina at this stage.
- Postmenopause: Following menopause (or a year without menstruation), people enter postmenopause. During this stage, the body is more accustomed to the changes it experienced; symptoms, like hot flashes, begin to ease. A person is considered to be postmenopausal for the rest of their life after menopause.
It’s important to note that each person's experience with menopause varies, so some may encounter more changes in their sex drive and pleasure than others. During menopause and postmenopause, for instance, some people actually experience a rise in their sex drive. The surge may be tied to the sexual freedom of knowing they can have penetrative sex without the risk of getting pregnant, or simply due to having more sexual confidence with age and practice.
Sex products and toys that cater to pleasure during menopause stages
Throughout the different stages of menopause, vaginal dryness can often be addressed with a good lubricant. Use one that is free of glycerin, fragrance, or synthetic flavors to avoid any additional dryness, irritation, or a yeast infection. My favorite water-based lubes right now are Coconu's Water-Based Personal Lubricant ($25) because it is long-lasting and has a silky, sensuous feel and Good Clean Love's Water-Based Lubricant, ($12) which is made with moisturizing aloe vera. For an oil-based lube option with CBD, Foria’s Intimacy Sex Oil with CBD ($44) is wonderful, too.
After treating the source of the discomfort with lubricants, many people navigating menopause can enjoy sex again. However, if you notice you have low motivation to have sex, I recommend trying products with botanical aphrodisiacs that can naturally fuel your libido, both internally and externally. Internally, my favorite supplement right now is Sex and Good’s OMG Formula ($39), which is packed with herbs like maca and epimedium, which have been noted by research to boost mood and libido. Externally I recommend arousal oils like Foria’s Awaken ($48) or Bloomi’s Arousal Oil ($45). Addressing libido holistically with natural supplements and external topicals provides a better shot at feeling good and getting your juices flowing again.
When picking a new sex toy, there are two things to keep in mind: First, pick something that is exciting to you personally. View a new toy as a treat for yourself. Second, lean into toys that will promote blood flow. Think heat, vibration, and suction because anything that promotes blood flow will promote your natural arousal and lubrication. Some great starter options include Dame’s Aer ($95) clitoral suction toy and Lelo’s Ora 3 ($169) oral stimulation vibrator.
How to enjoy sex and intimacy during menopause with a partner
Many partnered people experiencing menopause fear that intimacy may wane during this stage in their life, but so long as communication lines remain open, this does not have to be the case. It's crucial to talk with your partner(s) about the discomfort you might be feeling during sex and any other physical or emotional change you are facing. Ask them to be an active participant in your pleasure leading up to sex, do things that spark joy in your relationship (think back to dates you did early on in your relationship), and be open to trying new products or treatments.
If intimacy issues aren’t improving or feel difficult to discuss, consider working with a sexologist, counselor and/or a health professional who specializes in sexual health. There’s no single answer to approaching menopause, and no shame in the changes that you and your partner(s) need to make in your pleasure and intimacy.
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