Better Sex After Menopause? Here's How To Make That Happen
By Kate Silver | April 28, 2020
Amy Buckalter knew menopause would happen. But still, when sex became painful in mid-life because of vaginal dryness, it took her by surprise. "It wasn't until talking about it with my doctor that I learned this is just my new normal," says Buckalter, who lives in Seattle, Washington.
At first, the solution seemed easy enough: she'd use a lubricant. But she quickly found that lubricants have drawbacks of their own. "I was kind of appalled by the archaic nature of using lubricants. They're cold. Messy. You're fumbling around trying to find it during a fluid moment. It feels very clinical and medicinal when you're having a very romantic and intimate time," she says.
She felt as though the act of sexual intimacy, which had for so long brought her a sense of comfort, connection and empowerment, was forever changed. "It was as if it was the first time in my life I actually felt an impact of age," she says.
Buckalter knew that if she was struggling, other women were, too. So she set out to find a solution. What if she could create not just a high-quality lubricant, but also a hygienic, touch-free system that warmed and dispensed as needed? The result: Pulse, a product line that includes a motion-activated warming dispenser that can be filled with Pulse water-based and silicone lubricants and massage lubricants and Pulse massage oils. The dispenser looks like it belongs in a spa, and the lubricants and massage oils come in pods (think: coffee pods) for convenient, mess-free delivery.
Today, Buckalter, who is founder and CEO of Pulse / Pulse Pods, is thrilled with her "new normal," and says she wants women to know that if they are experiencing discomfort because of changes related to menopause, help is out there. "This is not your mother's menopause," she says. "There have been women founders developing solutions that have never existed before that can make your experience pleasurable in entering a new phase of your life."
Alyssa Dweck, MD, a gynecologist in Westchester County, New York, says menopause impacts women in different ways. For many women - like Buckalter - sex is actually good or better after menopause. That's because they're taking action by using moisturizers, lubricants, toys or other methods. Plus, many women feel liberated because they no longer have to worry about menstrual bleeding or birth control.
"There's a lot of good stuff that comes out of menopause when it comes to sex," says Dweck, author of the book The Complete A to Z Guide for Your V. She shared the following advice to make the most of it.
1. If your libido is low, consider the underlying causes.
There are many different factors at work that could contribute to lowered sex drive during perimenopause and menopause. If sex is painful because of dryness, that could cause women to want to avoid it. If it takes longer to reach orgasm than it used to, that could be a deterrent. If hot flashes are causing loss of sleep and mood changes, that could have an impact on a person's sex life. Each of these are challenges that can be addressed individually, and Dweck suggests talking with your gynecologist if you're experiencing any of these changes. Your doc can help find a solution that will work for you, including moisturizers, lubricants, hormones or other paths.
2. Use it - so you don't lose it.
Whatever form it takes, the more sex you have, the better it is. Before, during or after menopause, Dweck says stimulation to the genitals enhances blood flow, and that helps prevent dryness and pain. "Whether it's with intercourse, a vibrator or any form of self-stimulation, those things are going to be helpful," she says. Many women also don't realize that the vagina can actually atrophy if it's not used. "The vagina has a tendency, if completely unoccupied, if you will, to shorten, shrink down, become much more delicate and inelastic. So the more you're using it, the more likely you'll have less trouble in the future."
3. Take care of your overall health.
If you're feeling good physically, it may help you to feel better sexually, says Dweck. She recommends that women in perimenopause and menopause follow the Mediterranean diet, which is filled with vegetables and lean proteins, and limits red meat and salt consumption. "It's good for heart health, it's good for immune function, and it's naturally low in carbs so people who are complaining of weight gain will notice a change in positive direction," she says. In addition, Dweck recommends regular exercise (150 minutes per week of cardio as well as weight or resistance training) and some sort of stress reduction, such as meditation or yoga. "All of these are extremely important, not only for treatment but for the prevention of problems going forward."
Every woman experiences menopause differently. For some, that can mean changes in their sex life. But with a little bit of research and preparation, those changes may actually be for the better.
Kate Silver is a Gen X writer living in Chicago. Her work regularly appears in Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and on her own website, www.thekatesilver.com.