Summer Survival Guide: Menopause and Sex (Part 1) 

There’s something about summertime that sends pulses racing, but if the warmer weather is exacerbating your menopause symptoms, then sex could be the last thing on your mind.

As temperatures rise, the reality is that your sex drive could plummet, vaginal dryness might make intercourse uncomfortable and you may find yourself getting hot under the collar for a very different reason.

Whether you’re single or in a relationship, this can be upsetting, but it’s important to remember that support is available - and you can find it right here at Issviva!

This summer we’ve launched our ‘Summer Survival Guide’ to help you navigate the summer with menopause and as part of that, we asked relationship and psychosexual therapist, Miranda Christophers, to shine a light on some of the changes you may be experiencing.

Here she answers your questions on sex and intimacy and shows that whilst menopause can create challenges, it certainly doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to your sex life.

Does sex help menopause?

Sexual wellbeing is really important to consider during the menopause transition period because we want people to enjoy the sex lives and intimacy they like to have.

The sense of closeness, understanding and communication is really important and for many people ‘intimacy’ on some level really matters to them.

That can be physical intimacy or that can be sexual intimacy, but I think what's really important is that people don't feel the need to be doing a particular thing.

You don't need to be having sex if you don’t want to and this is something to really talk about with your partner - so that you can find a way to move forward, both feeling good (or as good as you can).

Can menopause affect your sex life?

The menopause can affect your sex life and one of the ways in which it does that is through mood.

You may be struggling with mood a little bit, you may be having some mood swings, you may lose your temper more and you may also notice that you just don't feel quite yourself.

This is something that a lot of women report during menopause and that can affect how you feel towards your partner.

The other thing to consider is if you have fears about how you look, because of course the body is changing during menopause. You may notice your weight fluctuate or that your shape is changing.

We've got to think about how that impacts somebody in terms of mentally ‘what's going on for them?’ ‘How are they feeling about themselves?’ ‘What does their self-esteem look like?’ ‘How is it affecting their confidence?’

There are a variety of different things that can affect the way somebody is feeling emotionally in terms of sexual intimacy and body image is another important consideration.

If you don't feel good about yourself, then ultimately it’s likely to affect your self-esteem and that can very much have an impact on desire.

Does menopause cause a low sex drive?

One of the other things to consider is the physical changes that are happening in your body as you're going through menopause. Hormones can really start to fluctuate as we go towards menopause and oestrogen starts to decrease.

It may start to move more erratically and you may notice changes in your libido and that can be quite distressing. It’s something we need to talk about, because we need to understand that it's not just you experiencing that.

Women often feel very alone and I talk to people in the therapy room all the time in terms of how this is impacting their relationships and affecting their sense of self.

They may have had the desire before, they may have had regular sexual intimacy or certainly sexual thoughts before - and may notice that's changed.

Does menopause make sex painful?

Some of the physical symptoms of menopause include the thinning, shortening and the narrowing of the vagina and with this, there may be discomfort or pain during sexual intimacy.

Some women find they get tears and bleeding and some will even experience vaginal and pelvic area prolapse. It doesn't affect everybody but these are some of the symptoms we need to consider when we're thinking about the things that may be affecting people during the menopause.

Some people find that sex is very painful and if you’re experiencing pain (unless you’re actually enjoying pain as part of sex) then it's not going to be conducive to being emotionally connected and focused on what is actually creating that pleasure.

How can I get my sex life back on track during menopause?

Menopause can be a really confusing time. Your partner may not understand the menopause, or the symptoms and changes you are experiencing, so it can be really helpful for you to tell them what’s happening to you - and for you to also understand what's happening for them.

If they see you being a bit short tempered, for example, the chances are they’ll get a bit defensive. And if you start to pull away from sexual intimacy, they can feel rejected. But if they start to understand that you’re not feeling great, you can start to come together to find the solutions that are going to work.

It's very clear from studies that communication makes a world of difference and that if we understand why something's happening, we don't go to a point of assumption and we reduce the negative impact.

I would always recommend people go and speak to a menopause specialist at their GP surgery too, or find one outside if they're not getting the answers and support they need via the surgery itself.