Experiencing “The Change” in Your Sex Life?

Is there such a thing as sex after menopause? Absolutely! In fact, some women report that they enjoy sex more when they no longer need to plan sex around their menstrual cycles or worry about getting pregnant. Also, women often feel more connected to their bodies and more secure in their intimate relationships at this stage of life.

However, let’s not be too Pollyanna– Going through “the change” can certainly change they way women experience sex, and for some, these changes can cause a significant degree of anxiety and frustration. As we age and approach menopause, our bodies go through profound hormonal shifts that can affect our sexual functioning, pleasure and desire. The marked decrease in estrogen can make the vaginal tissues drier, thinner, and less acidic causing sex to become uncomfortable or painful, and increasing the risk of infection. It generally takes more time for the vagina to become lubricated, even when you are feeling turned on. Reduced blood flow to the genitals can affect sensation and sexual pleasure. Hot flashes are anything but sexy and night sweats can disturb sleep, causing women to feel tired and irritable throughout the day. Mood fluctuations are common, and you may find that you are just “not in the mood” for sex. Low sexual desire is one of the most common complaints of menopausal women.

BUT, don’t throw in the towel and conclude that menopause marks the end of your sex life. There are actually some simple steps that you can take to decrease menopausal symptoms, improve sexual pleasure, and give your sex drive a boost. So ladies, try some of these strategies to take the “pause” out of meno-pause and press the “reset” button on your sex life:

Take good care of your body: Your overall health affects your sexual health and sexual functioning. Be sure to have regular check-ups with your doctor, and get proper treatment for any medical conditions. Ask your doctor about potential sexual side effects of medications that you may be prescribed. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Smoking poses a host of health-related concerns, and it can also impede sexual arousal and response. The same is true for high levels of alcohol and caffeine. Work on reducing or eliminating smoking and keep your alcohol and caffeine intake at a low to moderate level. Avoid strong soaps and bubble baths as they can irritate the vagina.

Get-up-and-go:  Make sure you are getting enough exercise. You don’t need to go to the gym for hours on end—just work on getting your body moving with some daily physical activity. Go for a brisk walk; take the stairs instead of the elevator; do some jumping jacks during the commercial breaks of your favourite TV show; practice yoga. Physical activity improves blood flow and circulation, including to the genitals, which increases sensation and sensitivity. Exercise also helps to boost your energy, increase your strength and endurance, lift your mood, decrease stress, and promotes more restful sleep…all of which can improve your sex drive! Kegel exercises are designed to specifically strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, aiding in the prevention and treatment of pelvic organ prolapse—a common problem for menopausal women. Doing these pelvic floor exercises has also been shown to improve pelvic blood flow and sensation, and enhance sexual pleasure.

Use a personal lubricant:  A lack of vaginal lubrication can make sexual activity and intercourse very uncomfortable, and can increase the risk of vaginal and urinary tract infections. Using a personal lubricant adds moisture and slipperiness to the vagina, which can make sex much more comfortable and pleasurable.  Lubricants come in a variety of water-based, oil-based, and silicone-based formulas, and they can be purchased over-the-counter at your local pharmacy.

Explore your body- intimatelyAs women age, they often find that they require more, longer, and/or different types of stimulation in order to arouse them and bring them to orgasm. Engaging in self-pleasuring (or masturbation) can help you to learn more about your own body and the types of sensations, touch, and stimulation that you find most pleasurable. Having a good understanding of how to turn yourself on will help enable you to teach your partner how to please you sexually. Self-pleasuring is normal, healthy, and good for you and your libido—at any age!

Try using natural supplements: Many women report experiencing significant improvements in sexual desire, response and satisfaction, as well as increased vaginal lubrication while using a natural libido supplement such as femMED LIBIDO. Look for supplements containing a doctor-formulated combination of natural ingredients such as L-arginine, Tribulus, Terrestris and Gingko Biloba. These ingredients have been demonstrated to help to encourage pelvic blood flow and lubrication, increase free testosterone and improve sexual desire. There are also natural supplements available that target sleep disturbance and other menopausal symptoms, such as femMED SLEEP and femMED MENOPAUSE RELIEF.

Have more sex:  Believe it or not, sexual activity in and of itself is good for you and for your vagina. Becoming aroused during sex increases blood flow to the genitals, which helps to keep the tissues healthy. So, here’s the drill:

1) Try the above strategies to make sex feel better

2) When sex feels better you will likely want more of it

3) Have more sex

4) Repeat step 1!

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About Kelli Young

Kelli Young earned her degree in occupational therapy in 1992 from the University of Western Ontario. She is a registered occupational therapist with training, certification and expertise in the areas of Marriage and Family Therapy, and Sex Therapy. Since 1992 she has worked in the Eating Disorders Program at the Toronto General Hospital where she provides group, individual, family and couple therapy. She also has a private practice in Toronto. Kelli has a diploma in group psychotherapy, earned in 1998 from the Canadian Group Psychotherapy Association (CGPA) following a 2-year intensive training program. In 2005 she received a Master’s degree (M.Ed.) in Counseling Psychology from the University of Toronto. That same year, she earned a graduate certificate in Couple and Family Therapy Studies through the University of Guelph and the Ontario Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (OAMFT). Kelli has extensive training in sex therapy, including a practicum in the Sexual Medicine Counseling Unit at Sunnybrook and Women’s Health Sciences Centre. She has also completed the “Intensive Sex Therapy Training Institute” (2001); the “Advanced Training Program in Treating Female Sexual Dysfunction” (2002) and the “Sexual Attitudes Reassessment (SAR)” Institute (2006) through the University of Guelph. She has training and experience in a variety of couple and family therapy models, including Narrative Therapy, Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, and Feminist Therapy, which are approaches that she draws from extensively in her work. She also utilizes principles and methods of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In addition to her work at the Toronto General Hospital and her private practice, Kelli has facilitated support groups at Sheena’s Place, a support centre for people with eating disorders. Since joining Sheena’s Place in 2002, she has facilitated groups on topics such as Talking about Sex; Food, Body Image, and Sexuality; Connecting as Couples; and Adult Support. She is a member of the Canadian Group Psychotherapy Association (CGPA), the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) and the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN). She is a Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and a Clinical Member of the Ontario Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (OAMFT). Additionally, she is a Clinical Member of the Board of Examiners in Sex Therapy and Counseling in Ontario (BESTCO). Kelli also sits on the Canadian Advisory Board (Medical Advisor) of the Spinal Cord Tumor Association. Kelli holds a teaching appointment (rank of Lecturer) at the University of Toronto, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in the Faculty of Medicine. Kelli is the recipient of several teaching awards. Most recently she received the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy 2011 Community Partners Award for “Outstanding Significant Contributions during 2010-2011”. Kelli and her husband reside in Toronto with their two teenage daughters.

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