I’m sure a lot of you already enjoy a healthy sex life. I’m also sure that a lot of you don’t.
It’s amazing how much the mental aspects of sexual activity affect women … perhaps even more than the physical changes experienced during perimenopause and menopause. You’re often tired, maybe you’ve been with your partner for a long time and there’s no spark. And maybe you get caught up with running after kids, husband, aging parents, work, running a house and oh … your partner wants to make love tonight when all they’ve done is go to work, come home and sit on their butt???? I don’t think so!
And then there’s the issue of your self-image. That was my biggest challenge during the early stage of perimenopause. I had gained a lot of weight and felt totally undesirable. I didn’t like the look of me. How could I think my husband would? It didn’t seem to matter how much he loved and accepted me and told me it didn’t matter to him. It was me he wanted to make love with, not some image in a magazine or some imaginary ideal body. Problem was, I didn’t believe him.
Women experience a myriad of reactions to perimenopause and menopause, ranging from a sense of loss, feeling less of a woman, feeling like your usefulness is over since you can no longer bear children, to a sense of freedom and liberation.
Let’s talk about some of the physical symptoms of this time of life. Nervousness, irritability, anxiety, apprehension, hot flashes, night sweats, joint pains, melancholia, palpitations, crying spells, weakness, dizziness, severe headaches, poor concentration, loss of memory, chronic indigestion, insomnia, frequent urination, itching of the skin, dryness of the eyes, nose and mouth and backache are all factors that can affect your drive.
Changes in vaginal tissues are at the root of a lot of the pain associated with intercourse in our more mature years. It becomes drier and the tissues become thin, fine and easily damaged. This can cause painful intercourse and reduce your desire. There are numerous other causes for painful sex as I discussed in this post. Your libido may stay intact but the pain is not conducive to enjoyable sex.
These changes can be reversed with estrogen. Vaginal lubricant, estrogen cream, bio identical hormones and DHEA are options. DHEA is a precursor to not only estrogen and progesterone, but also testosterone (the main hormone which affects your sex drive). I should warn you of one side effect of DHEA. It can seriously increase your libido. Your partner may not be able to keep up.
Ladies … it is very important for both your physical and mental health … that you make the time for a good, healthy, enjoyable sex life. It will actually help prolong your life.
Some of the benefits of sex are:
- It improves your immune system by increasing antibodies that help fight off colds, flus and infections.
- It boosts your libido – the more you participate, the more you increase lubrication, blood flow and elasticity and the more likely you are to want to have sex.
- It improves bladder control by strengthening pelvic floor muscles.
- It lowers blood pressure.
- It counts as exercise by bumping up your heart rate and using various muscles.
- It lowers heart attack risk by helping keep estrogen and testosterone levels in balance.
- It lessens pain and can actually block chronic back and leg pain and even reduce menstrual cramps, arthritic pain and headaches. I guess that excuse is gone then 😉
- It improves sleep by inducing relaxation and sleepiness.
- It eases stress. Physical intimacy … even hugging, can release endorphins (the feel good hormone). Arousal releases a brain chemical that revs up your brain’s pleasure and reward system. It can also boost self-esteem and happiness.
- It can reduce mild depression.
The good news is that a healthy diet including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes will improve your sexual and overall health and increase your sense of wellbeing. Fish, poultry, eggs, milk products and cold pressed oils should be used in moderation. Sugar, processed foods, cured meats, fried foods and chemicals should be avoided whenever possible. Dairy and gluten containing foods can have a negative effect on some people by increasing inflammation. If you’re not sure whether either type of food is a problem, eliminate them. If you feel better, don’t include them in your diet.
Regular exercise is vital to help ease the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause and to help improve your overall health. It increases energy, releases endorphins and promotes a happier, more positive outlook on life. And yes … it will help with your libido.
And what if you don’t have a partner? That’s where you take matters into your own hand or use adult toys. Orgasms help your sexual health but are not imperative. So don’t feel pressured. Many women don’t experience orgasms and that’s ok. You will still reap the benefits of sex without it. Keeping up regular activity is very important to sexual health.
Despite all the demands on our time as women, we must make the time to eat healthy, drink plenty of water and get our daily exercise (even if it’s just a 20 minute walk at lunch). We should strive to get sufficient sleep, and engage in regular sexual activity to maintain a healthy, active and happy life.
Until next time …..