Remember those carefree days in your 20s when a roll in the hay was as much a part of your life as drunken giggles with your girlfriends or regular Friday night clubbing?
Pre-kids, I know so many of my clients enjoyed healthy sex lives, excited by the thrill, newness and passion of it all. Now that they’re smack bang in the midst of menopause, getting jiggy with their partner falls to the bottom of their to-do list (yes, they feel it becomes a chore). But seriously ladies, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are so many benefits associated with re-lighting your fire in your 50s and plenty of scientific evidence points to the fact that sex in later life is great for both your mental and physical health.
THE BENEFITS OF SEX IN YOUR 50s AND BEYOND
Sex increases dopamine, which is linked to our natural reward system, and oxytocin, which promotes positive feelings of attachment and trust. It also boosts testosterone levels in both men and women, and decreases cortisol, which signals stress.
It’s a great form of exercise and movement, both of which contribute to your health and wellbeing as we age. And because orgasms are known to lower your blood pressure and give you a rush of the hormone prolactin, they can actually help you sleep better.
Within a long-term marriage, a healthy sex life means you feel more physically and emotionally connected; while for those starting new relationships, that feeling of being “wanted” can be a great boost for your self-esteem.
LOSS OF LIBIDO DURING THE MENOPAUSE
So the benefits of a healthy sex life are well documented, but what happens if you just don’t feel up to it? For far too many women, the loss of their libido during the menopause is very real. It’s associated with a drop in hormone levels, and let’s be honest if you’re suffering from endless hot sweats and mood swings you’re not going to feel your sensual best.
Physically, this drop in hormones leads to the thinning of the vaginal wall, causing loss of elasticity and dryness, and making sex uncomfortable or even painful. Emotionally, many of us fall for the stereotype that as women, there is an age limit on what society considers sexy (notice how this doesn’t happen to men – there is no female equivalent of the “silver fox”). Sadly, all to often attraction is still equated with youth; but believe me, I know countless beautiful women who just get sexier with age.
“There is no greater power in the world than the zest of a postmenopausal woman”
Back in the 1950s, American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said: “There is no greater power in the world than the zest of a postmenopausal woman“; while in Japan the word for menopause is “konenki”, which means renewal, season and energy. Because it is embraced rather than feared, it is viewed in a far more positive way than in the West. So by turning society’s assumptions on their head, women can see the post-menopause can bring about a new and exciting phase rather than focussing on the loss of their youth.
Look at this way: your children may have left home, those pesky periods have come to an end and you now have the time to reconnect with your partner all over again (you could even think of this time as a second honeymoon!). Yes, you both may need to be more patient with each other – orgasm may take longer to reach, for example – but you can see this an opportunity to try new things, re-acquaint yourself with each other’s bodies and make more time for romantic times together.
One friend of mine has found turning 50 liberating, and as her children have become adults she has embraced her new-found freedom for “dirty” weekends away and quality time alone with her partner. “There’s this idea that once you hit your 50s you shouldn’t fancy sex anymore or that your shouldn’t feel attractive; but I’m finally at the stage where I accept my body – wobbly bits and all – and feel confident in knowing what I enjoy and what I want in bed. Why would I want to give that up now!”
At Dr Julia Sen, we are one of the few clinics in the UK to offer the state-of-the-art Votiva FormaV, an effective women’s health treatment designed to give you back your quality of life. This intimate procedure is great for peri-menopausal and menopausal women, targeting vaginal and vulva tightening and boosting tissue quality. Clients typically experience an increase in natural lubrication and more pleasurable sex. You can find more about the procedure here.