Menopause is an incredible part of a woman’s natural aging process, but for many patients, it can also be a mystifying one. You might wonder what’s happening to your body, as well as what life will be like after menopause. Below, we’ve addressed a few common questions that patients bring up regarding life after menopause. We hope you find our answers helpful in your search for information!
When a woman goes through menopause, her ovaries cease estrogen production. This leads to her vagina becoming drier and less elastic. However, low doses of estrogen therapy, long-lasting vaginal moisturizers, and regular vaginal sexual activity can keep your vagina healthy and toned.
Some women experience a decrease in libido and some women experience an increase in libido. It’s different for every patient. Psychological factors such as body image and physiological factors like hormone levels can also affect your sex drive. Women who make an effort to maintain a satisfying sex life prior to menopause are more likely to continue to do so after menopause. Your sex life can also be affected by a greater need for intimacy, but as long as you and your partner make the effort, chances are good that your sex life will not change too drastically.
While menopause is the body’s way of tapering off reproduction and fertility, some doctors may still prescribe estrogen birth control in extremely low doses during a woman’s perimenopausal phase (which tends to take place for several years before your last period)-about maybe 10 to 20 micrograms of estrogen, as opposed to the 30 to 50 micrograms in regular birth control pills. Taking these low-dose birth control pills not only prevents pregnancy, but can prevent bone loss and regulate periods.
Additionally, women should still practice safe sex-even after their final period-because there is still at risk for STIs (sexually transmitted infections). In fact, post-menopausal women are more at risk for STIs because of their thinning vaginal walls.
Hormone replacement therapy has its risks and benefits. Benefits include bone loss prevention and the treatment of menopause symptoms like night sweats, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and painful sex. Risks of taking higher doses of estrogen include an increased likelihood of heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, breast cancer, gall bladder disease, and endometrial cancer in the uterine lining when using estrogen alone, especially in women with a history of these conditions. However, a mix of progestin and estrogen decreases this risk. Furthermore, very low doses of estrogen applied directly to the vagina to treat vaginal dryness are considered safe.
Many post-menopausal women experience an increase in vaginal dryness that can lead to painful intercourse. However, if you invest in a good lubricant, such as a water-based lubricant, sex should be less painful.