Skip left navigation
Subscribe to Menopause email updates.
Menopause and sexuality
Did you know?
If you still get your period — even if it's not regular anymore — you still can get pregnant. Even if you have stopped getting your period, you still can get sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Learn more about sexual health concerns that you or your partner might face as you get older.
Sexual issues and menopause
In the years around menopause, you may experience changes in your sexual life. Some women say they enjoy sex more after they don't have to worry about getting pregnant. Other women find that they think about sex less often or don't enjoy it as much.
Changes in sexuality at this time of life have several possible causes, including:
- Decreased hormones can make vaginal tissues drier and thinner, which can make sex uncomfortable.
- Decreased hormones may reduce sex drive.
- Night sweats can disturb a woman's sleep and make her too tired for sex.
- Emotional changes can make a woman feel too stressed for sex.
Keep in mind that being less interested in sex as you get older is not a medical condition that needs treatment. But if you are upset about sexual changes, you can get help. Don't be shy about talking with your doctor or nurse. They certainly have talked with many women about these issues before.
Return to top
Some simple steps may help with sexual issues you face at this time:
- Get treated for any medical problems. Your overall health can affect your sexual health. For example, you need healthy arteries to supply blood to your vagina.
- Try to exercise. Physical activity can increase your energy, lift your mood, and improve your body image — all of which can help with sexual interest.
- Don't smoke. Cigarette smoking can reduce both the blood flow to the vagina and the effects of estrogen, which are important to sexual health.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. They can slow down how your body responds.
- Try to have sex more often. Sex can increase blood flow to your vagina and help keep tissues healthy.
- Allow time to become aroused during sex. Moisture from being aroused protects tissues. Also, avoid sex if you have any vaginal irritation.
- Practice pelvic floor exercises. These can increase blood flow to the vagina and strengthen the muscles involved in orgasm. Learn more about pelvic floor exercises in our Urinary incontinence fact sheet.
- Avoid products that irritate your vagina. Bubble bath and strong soaps might cause irritation. Don't douche. If you're experiencing vaginal dryness, allergy and cold medicines may add to the problem.
Return to top
Discuss your symptoms and personal health issues with your doctor to decide whether one or more treatment options are right for you.
If vaginal dryness is an issue:
- Using an over-the-counter, water-based vaginal lubricant like K-Y Jelly or Astroglide when you have sex can lessen discomfort.
- An over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer like Replens can help put moisture back in vaginal tissues. You may need to use it every few days.
- Prescription medicines that are put into a woman's vagina may increase moisture and sensation. These include estrogen creams, tablets, or rings. If you have severe vaginal dryness, the most effective treatment may be menopausal hormone therapy.
If sexual interest is an issue:
- Treating vaginal dryness may help. Talking with your partner or making lifestyle changes also may help. Learn about lifestyle changes on the Natural/alternative treatments and lifestyle changes page.
- You may wonder about Viagra. This medication has helped men with erection problems, but it has not proven effective in increasing women's sexual interest.
- Some women try products like pills or creams that contain the male hormone testosterone or similar products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved these products for treating reduced female sex drive because there is not enough research proving them safe and effective.
- The FDA has approved menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) for symptoms like hot flashes, but research has not proven that MHT increases sex drive.
Return to top
Talking with your partner
Talking with your partner about your sexual changes can be very helpful. Some possible topics to discuss include:
- What feels good and what doesn't
- Times that you may feel more relaxed
- Which positions are more comfortable
- Whether you need more time to get aroused than you used to
- Concerns you have about the way your appearance may be changing
- Ways to enjoy physical connection other than intercourse, like massage
Talking with your partner can strengthen your sexual relationship and your overall connection. If you need help, consider meeting with a therapist or sex counselor for individual or couples therapy.
Return to top
More information on Menopause and mental health
Explore other publications and websites
- A Guide to the Individualized Education Program - This guide provides an overview of the Individualized Education Program (IEP). It describes the content of an IEP and who the IEP team members are. It also looks at the process of writing an IEP as well as implementation and review of the IEP and what to do if parents do not agree with the plan.
- Bullying Among Children and Youth with Disabilities and Special Needs - This fact sheet discusses what parents can do if they feel their child with a disability is a victim of bullying.
- Coping With Chronic Illness (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics) - Learning that your child has a disability or a chronic disease is hard. This fact sheet discusses ways in which to learn to help your child through their disability or chronic disease.
- Developmental Screening - This fact sheet explains the importance of early developmental screenings in children to test for early signs of autism, mental retardation, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. This fact sheet also explains what programs are being used to screen for behavioral and development in children.
- For Parents (Copyright © Center for Young Women’s Health) - This website offers information about many conditions that may affect teenage girls.
- HPV Vaccine: What You Need to Know - This fact sheet discusses the benefits and risks of getting the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. It also defines HPV and talks about who should get the vaccination, who should wait, and where you can get more information.
- Kids' Quest on Disability and Health - Information for Parents and Teachers - The Kids' Quests are designed for students in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. Parents and teachers can modify the materials to meet students' learning styles and levels. The Quests can be used in lessons about health, social studies, and tolerance in society.
- Learning About an Undiagnosed Condition in a Child - When a child has an undiagnosed rare condition, it can be very difficult for parents who want answers. This website has frequently asked questions about undiagnosed conditions for parents.
- Lifetime Sports: Parental Roles in Facilitating and Supporting an Active Lifestyle for a Child with a Disability (Copyright © National Center on Physical Activity and Disability) - This publication helps parents of children with disabilities understand how to foster a positive attitude, communicate, select activities, and set goals in order to support physical activity in their children.
- Living with AD/HD: Parenting Children and Teens (Copyright © National Resource Center on AD/HD) - This website gives tips on how to communicate with family, friends, and school about a child’s learning disability. It also discusses lifestyle changes and how to handle stress if your child has a learning disability.
- Meningitis - Have questions about meningitis? This online resource provides information on risk factors, transmission, signs and symptoms of meningitis. It also has resources on the meningitis vaccine.
- The ABCs of Respite Care: A Consumer’s Guide for Family Caregivers (Copyright © ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center) - Taking care of a child with a disability can be exhausting, stressful, and overwhelming at times. This resource explains the types of respite care available, tips for choosing a program, and how to pay for care.
- Understanding Disability (Copyright © Easter Seals) - Learn all about specific disabilities and medical rehabilitation from Easter Seals. This web page covers cerebral palsy, down syndrome, learning disabilities, post–polio syndrome, spina bifida and stroke. Rehabilitation topics include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech and hearing therapy.
- Vaccines Needed by Teens and College Students - Children generally develop risks for more diseases as they approach their teen years. This resource gives the Centers for Disease Control and Protection’s vaccination recommendations for older children and teenagers.
- Young People With Cancer: A Handbook For Parents - This booklet discusses the most common types of childhood cancer, treatments, and side effects as well as issues that may arise when a child is diagnosed with cancer. It also offers medical information and practical tips gathered from parents.
Connect with other organizations
- Administration on Developmental Disabilities, ACF, HHS
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- Immunization Action Coalition
- National Cancer Institute, NIH
- National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC
- National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC, OPHS, HHS
- National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, CDC
- National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, NIH
- National Dissemination Center for Children With Disabilities, OSEP, ED
- National Network for Immunization Information
- National Vaccine Program Office
- Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER) Center
- Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases
- Utah MedHome Portal
Content last updated: September 22, 2010.
Resources last updated: September 29, 2010.
Return to top