Referred to in hushed tones as “the change” or dismissed as little more than a series of hot flushes, even in today’s liberal society the very word menopause is still somewhat taboo. Menopausal and post-menopausal women, their loved ones and even GPs are still reluctant to discuss the effects it can have on women’s love lives.
New survey results[i] published recently in Menopause International*, however, reveal a genuine and pressing need to raise awareness of issues around the menopause and to banish misconceptions based on the cliché that women at certain stages of life would happily forsake sex for a nice cup of tea.
The survey of 2,527 peri- and post-menopausal women – conducted by the physician-led site www.menopausematters.co.uk and now promoted by pure intimacy experts Yes (www.yestointimacy.com) – showed that 84 per cent of these felt that an active sex life was important: In other words, women who are going or have gone through the menopause still want to make love with their partners as much as they ever did .
But it’s not that these women, many of them over 50, don’t want to have sex any more; their bodies have simply stopped co-operating. A lack of natural lubrication (causing vaginal dryness) as a result of hormonal changes affects 38 per cent of peri-menopausal and 56 per cent of post-menopausal women.
Vaginal dryness is a completely natural occurrence that can be remedied with the use of intimate lubricants and the underlying vaginal changes due to oestrogen deficiency of the menopause can be treated by oestrogen in the form of HRT or vaginal oestrogen. And yet for many, this very natural condition is seen as a rather shameful, wholly embarrassing and certainly not-to-be-talked-about ‘personal failure’, with research showing that only 27 per cent of those affected discussed the problem with a health professional. Rather than being viewed as a normal physical response to hormonal change, the lack of natural lubrication at time of menopause can become a huge emotional burden resulting in anxiety, depression and at the very worst intimate relationship breakdown.
Dr Heather Currie, the menopause expert behind the survey, commented: “This survey reveals, disconcertingly, that many women aren’t seeking help for vaginal dryness and discomfort despite the fact that there are treatments out there that really work, and their confidence is plummeting as a result. Sex is about physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, and vaginal dryness associated with the menopause can lead to reduced sexual satisfaction and desire. This in turn leads to distress and potential damage not only to sex lives but relationships in general. There is a genuine need to highlight these issues and help both sufferers and health practitioners discuss them openly.”
Susi Lennox of Yes added: “It’s so important and timely that this taboo subject is brought out into the open to help women restore their sex lives. Too many have been suffering for too long, as the huge volume of letters and calls we receive from obviously distressed women looking for a solution demonstrates. That’s why we set up www.yestointimacy.com – a website full of practical, impartial advice on the menopause and dryness – for example there’s a section that gives tips on how to tackle this sensitive issue with a GP or family member.”
[i]“Web-based survey on the effect of menopause on women’s libido in a computer-literate population”, published by Menopause International 6th March 2009
The information in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice.