New research suggests that the hormonal changes that come with menopause are only part of the reason why a woman’s sex life declines after menopause. Many women experience symptoms after menopause including vaginal dryness, painful intercourse and loss of desire, however, a new study shows that the reasons many women stop wanting sex, enjoying sex and having sex are far more complex.
The latest study, published in the medical journal Menopause, is based on surveys of more than 24,000 women taking part in an ovarian cancer screening study in Britain. The women, aged 50 to 74, answered multiple-choice health questionnaires about their sex lives at the start of the study. But the survey data are unique because about 4,500 of the women also left written comments, giving researchers new insights about women’s sex lives.
Summary of written comments
The median age was 64 years; 65% had a partner and 22.5% were sexually active.
Four interrelated themes were derived: partner availability, physical and sexual health, mental well-being, and interpersonal relationships.
Primary reason for absence of sexual activity was lack of a partner, mainly due to widowhood (n = 1,000).
The women discussed how their partner’s medical condition (27%) or sexual dysfunction (13.5%), their own physical health (18%) or menopause-related symptoms (12.5%), and prescribed medication (7%) affected sexual activity. Impact of low libido in self (16%) or partner (7%), relationship problems (10.5%) or logistics (6%), and perceptions of ageing (9%) were also mentioned. Few (3%) referred to positive sexual experiences or had sought medical help for sexual problems (6%).
The researchers concluded that having an intimate partner and good physical health are key factors for continuation of sexual activity and satisfaction. Further sexual education for healthcare professionals is needed to raise awareness about sexuality and sexual difficulties in later life.
Harper, Helena PhD et al (July 8, 2019 (Sexual functioning in 4,418 postmenopausal women participating in UKCTOCS. Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/Abstract/publishahead/Sexual_functioning_in_4,418_postmenopausal_women.97351.aspx