How to Deal with Painful Sex in Menopause
Menopause brings with it many changes in a woman’s body. You might notice an increase in weight and fat around the abdominal area, you might become moodier and more irritable, you may get less quality sleep, and experience pain during or after sexual intercourse. Painful sex is a very bothersome symptom that has a negative impact on a woman's quality of life. Find out how you can deal with it.
What Is the Cause of Painful Sex in Menopause?
Just like with many, if not all, other symptoms of menopause, the main reason for painful sex is the decline in estrogen levels during this transition. Because of hormonal changes in your body, the tissues of the vagina become drier and thinner. As a result, this can create more friction during sex and result in pain and tightness. A study among menopausal women shows that most of the sexual problems appeared in perimenopause and menopause (1). Experiencing painful sex in menopause is a condition called GSM, genitourinary syndrome of menopause, or dyspareunia.
Many women feel too shy to discuss the problem of painful sex with their doctor or even with their partner. They are lucky if they have a friends they could speak with about it and ask for advice. Although, it is more common for women to wait until they cannot bear their symptoms anymore to reach out for help. However, giving women more chances to talk about problems in sex related to menopause could improve their quality of life, as the study suggests (2).
Women should address their symptoms more often. Yes, having this condition is natural for women at the age of menopause, but this does not mean there is nothing you can do to ease the pain. Vaginal dryness can be treated (3) and there are also many natural and over the counter solutions you can use to deal with painful sex. The most important thing is to not be afraid to speak about your symptoms with your doctor and your partner so that you can find solutions to this problem.
Ways to Deal with Painful Sex
Sex should be enjoyable, even after menopause, and you do not have to suffer through the pain. Instead, speak to your partner openly about how you feel and find a way, together, to make the experience more enjoyable. These tips will help to relieve the pain you may have before, during, or after intercourse.
Something you might not have heard about before is pelvic floor therapy. This is a rather new method for treating vaginal dryness and painful sex. In it, massage is applied to stretch and relax the tissues in the pelvic area which help alleviate dryness. Besides therapy, you can try doing exercises targeting pelvic floor muscles to reach a similar effect.
Use Lubricants and Moisturizers
When vaginal tissues become dry in menopause, they cannot produce enough lubrication for you to avoid pain during sex naturally. But you can always use over the counter lubricants to ease the pain. Apply them before and after sex for the best results. Apart from lubricants, there are also moisturizers available that you can apply on a daily basis, not only before or during intercourse. These lubricants are designed to help ease vaginal dryness over the long term and offer a good way to support your vaginal health.
Be open and honest with your partner about your painful experience. Menopause is a natural transition in every woman’s life, so there is nothing that you have done wrong. Try to spend more time on foreplay during sex so you can get more aroused for your body to produce more natural lubrication. Experiment and see what works best for you.
After experiencing pain during sex, you might constantly have in mind that the feeling will return. As a result, you will be anxious which would make it harder for you to get aroused. To overcome this anxiety, try to practice relaxation techniques during the day like yoga or meditation, and try to focus only on positive things when it comes to sex. Your partner does not want to hurt you, and if you are open with him about your feelings, everything will work out.
Have Regular Sex
This might sound counterintuitive and you might be thinking, why should I have more sex when it is painful? The truth is, being aroused regularly improves blood flow to your sex organs, and as a result, more sex helps your body lubricate naturally. Regular stimulation, regardless of whether it is with or without a partner, is beneficial for your vaginal health.
Get a Prescription
Some women turn to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which is effective for alleviating many symptoms of menopause. However, we do not suggest it as it comes with many risks and side effects. Although, you could ask your doctor to prescribe a vaginal cream containing estrogen. You will apply this cream topically so not much estrogen will be absorbed into the body, which minimizes the risks.
(1) P. Sarrel and M. Whitehead. “Sex and menopause: defining the issues.”
(2) R. Nappi and M. Lachowsky. “Menopause and sexuality: Prevalence of symptoms and impact on quality of life.”
(3) A. Katz. “When Sex Hurts: Menopause-Related Dyspareunia.”