Menopause and Sex?

Women throughout the ages have experienced a range of undignified and often distressing symptoms associated with menopause – otherwise known as the “change of life”.

So is it possible to take steps to better manage your menopause experience?

menopause

There are many symptoms commonly associated with menopause that can negatively impact on a woman’s sex life – including vaginal dryness, low libido, fluctuations in energy levels and headaches. There may also be problems with:

  • Hot flushes;
  • Night sweats;
  • Redness of face and chest;
  • Mood changes & irritability;
  • Anxiety/ Depression;
  • Rashes;
  • Racing heart;
  • Disturbed sleep;
  • Bloating;
  • Memory loss.

In spite of the many and varied symptoms, menopause is not considered an illness or a disease, but a normal and inevitable stage of a woman’s reproductive journey.

For most women there is a pre-menopausal transition that involves some of the symptoms, together with irregular bleeding.

The Role of Oestrogen

As a woman ages her ovaries – the store-house for her eggs – eventually cease production and stop making oestrogen. Oestrogen is responsible for:

  • The development and maintenance of female reproductive structures from early childhood.
  • Fat distribution to give us our curves.
  • Maintaining the health of the endometrial lining of the uterus, and preparing the egg to be released for the monthly cycle.
  • Assisting in the control of the body’s fluid and electrolyte balance, so that our skin retains moisture (early use of sun screens and moisturisers delays the aging/ drying process).
  • Controlling the changes in our cervical mucus (natural contraception aka the rhythm method, is planned according to cervical mucus changes).
  • Preparing our internal environment for fertility, making it more sperm friendly.
  • Helping to maintain our bone density (which is why the risk of osteoporosis is higher after menopause).

How Menopause can affect us

  • Hot flushes. These are thought to be a response to fluctuations in a woman’s core temperature from activity in the brains temperature regulator – the hypothalamus. This is probably the most common and distressing symptom, and includes facial flushing, fast heartbeat and sweating. The social stigma and embarrassment of these symptoms can cause concurrent emotional distress to women, as the symptoms cannot be controlled or anticipated.
  • Night sweats and poor sleep. The hormonal influences cause profuse sweating at night and disturbance to quality of sleep. Adequate melatonin and progesterone levels should be checked with a doctor, to facilitate better sleep. Avoiding chemical and food stimulants and adjusting the environmental temperature can provide comfort and reduce other contributing factors.
  • Anxiety/ Depression/ mood. Emotional health is very important; women are particularly vulnerable to changes to their emotional wellbeing due to the hormonal influences around menopause. Half of women will likely experience mental health issues during their menopause transitions. Professional help is available to help cope with emotions and fears associated with the physical changes. Counselling is helpful to manage strong emotions and explore coping strategies; there are numerous resources available in menopause symptom management.
  • Low libido and vaginal dryness. Whilst hormonal influences do play a part in low libido, other factors may also be responsible. Relationship influences, psychological or emotional issues, expectations and perceptions around what is normal sexual intimacy, as well as a woman being out of touch with her sexuality, can all contribute to a loss of interest or desire. Professional support from a sex therapist / intimacy counsellor to address communication and psychological factors, and medical assessments to rule out physiological factors, should be considered.

Medical assessment and support is a valuable part of managing menopause, and for some women treatments such as hormone replacement therapy, smoking cessation support, dietary advice, counselling and physical therapy may be appropriate.

In conjunction with medical advice, adjustments to diet and lifestyle can help the menopausal transition and support your own hormonal balance.

Here are some helpful tips to help you with managing menopause:

  • Fibre rich diet including 2 serves of fruit and five of vegetables each day.
  • Increase intake of the healthy fats found in nuts and seeds.
  • Drink at least 1-2 litres of water daily.
  • Increase exercise and keep active (10,000 steps daily).
  • Limit salt and saturated fat intake.
  • Reduce or avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Engage in stress management activity such as meditation, prayer, dance, yoga, singing, laughter, deep breathing.
  • Acupuncture treatments.
  • Discuss supplementation with your naturopath, particularly omega oils, folic acid, B complex and minerals such as magnesium, calcium and zinc.
  • Herbal remedies such as dandelion, red clover, black cohosh, evening primrose oil can be helpful in managing menopause symptoms.
  • Air conditioning and other portable personal cooling devices.

Julie FickelAuthor: Julie Fickel has a background in nursing and midwifery, and over 20 years of counselling experience.

Julie is an expert counsellor who particularly enjoys assisting female clients with a broad range of feminine issues such as sex and intimacy therapy, overcoming birth trauma, post natal depression and managing menopause.

Julie offers counselling sessions via Skype, telephone, and face-to-face at M1 Psychology Loganholme. To arrange an appointment, please call (07) 3067 9129 or book Julie Fickel online now.

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