First, kudos for broaching the topic. While many of us talk openly with girlfriends or our doctor about hot flashes, far fewer mention that hot flashes may be the only things steaming up our nights. But the truth is sexual functioning, which includes a desire for sex, wanes for many women in their late 40s and 50s. One study found sexual function decreased 35 percent annually starting about two years before the last period until one year later. It then continues to decline, but more slowly.
Low estrogen and the vaginal changes that come with it — dryness, thinning of the skin, irritation, etc. — may be to blame. All of that can make sex about as appealing as a pelvic exam or even painful. Up to three-quarters of women say vaginal discomfort affects their libido or sex life in some way, according to one survey. Plus, it’s tough to get in the mood when all of them are swinging—or you’re not sleeping well and dealing with other symptoms.
The good news: Sex drive can be recovered, so talk to your doctor. Research suggests estrogen-containing creams, for example, may reduce vaginal discomfort and its impact on sex. Lubricants and moisturizers may help, too. Also, try experimenting with new ways to build arousal or intimacy, like massage or erotic videos or toys. Just as your body’s changing, what makes sex pleasurable for you might be changing, too.
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