What is menopause?
Menopause marks the end of the menstrual cycle. This is typically understood to be 12 months after a person’s last ever period. Postmenopause is the time after that final period.
The lead up to menopause, wherein someone may be experiencing inconsistent periods and range of hormonal symptoms, is referred to as the perimenopause stage. This can take between 1 and 10 years, but tends to last for about 5 years. This is the phase of life in which the body is running out of eggs to keep the menstrual cycle and potential for fertilisation going. It’s also the phase that is commonly associated with menopause — think mood swings and hot flashes.
While commonly associated with the 40s or 50s age range, menopause can also occur among younger populations. Menopause can be induced due to medical treatments such as hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or even chemotherapy in response to cancer treatment. Therefore, it is important to recognise that there may be other things going on in someone’s life while they are going through menopause, and it is not always a natural result of the ageing process.
How does menopause affect the body?
It’s no secret that menopause has a massive impact on the body. Here are some of the things that occur that could be impacting sex life:
Hot flashes and night sweats
Hot flashes is another common and well-known symptom of menopause. This includes sudden feelings of heat and sweat around the face, neck and chest area. When this happens in your sleep, that’s what we refer to as night sweats. This can make intimacy and sharing a bed difficult.
Hormonal changes are the reason for all the pesky menopause symptoms. Oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels are all impacted by menopause, leading to big drops in hormone levels. This is often associated with hormone replacement therapy, which is a medical process that aims to replace low oestrogen levels.
Vaginal atrophy and dryness
Vaginal atrophy refers to thinning and drying of the vaginal walls in response to low oestrogen levels. This is one of the most common symptoms of menopause that can impact a person’s sex life. The vagina naturally lubricates, however this process is likely to be impacted by menopause induced vaginal atrophy. This can make sex painful due to lack of natural lubrication.
3 myths about sex and menopause
Now that we’ve gone through a few facts about menopause, we need to debunk the remaining myths:
1. You can’t get pregnant during menopause
Refer to our earlier distinction between perimenopause and menopause — there is a period of a few years where you’re losing your last eggs and your period is still coming every now and then, in which you can still become pregnant. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming you’ve hit menopause and ending all use of contraception! Wait those 12 months of period-free life and make sure you’ve actually hit that postmenopause phase. Voila, you’re free to have sex without worrying about unwanted pregnancy.
2. No more STIs after menopause
Condoms aren’t just for contraception, people! There’s a reason there’s a large population of elderly people with STIs — as soon as the potential for pregnancy gets taken off the table, people assume they’re safe to have unprotected sex. This is not true! You can still get an STI when you’re postmenopausal. We recommend investing in some lubricated dams.
3. Your sex life is over after menopause
Even if your libido has gone out the window, your sex life is not necessarily over. Unless you’re ready to give it all up, you don’t have to stop having sex just because you’re postmenopausal and experiencing some new sexual difficulties. Treat this new phase as an opportunity to explore new types of sex. You can still have a wonderful, fulfilling, steamy sex life after menopause. Here’s how:
5 tips for sex during menopause
1. Add a good lubricant
Remember that vaginal atrophy and dryness we spoke about earlier? There are plenty of great lubricants out there that can help you manage that to improve your sex life. Water-based lube is a great option because it’s not sticky on the body and is compatible with silicone sex toys. Lube is a super important addition to a postmenopausal sex life, as it can reduce sexual pain associated with dryness and make the entire process more comfortable.
2. Take it slow
As we just mentioned, penetration can be painful due to dryness. In addition to using lube, it’s vital that you take it slow and don’t rush into sex, especially when it comes to intercourse. Painful sex can lead to a cycle of fear, avoidance, and more pain, so it’s important to pay attention your pain and even consider working on it with a healthcare professional.
3. Focus on external pleasure
Our next best tip for sex after menopause is to focus on external pleasure. The clitoris is the sex centre of our bodies for a reason — get to know it! Sex can be just as pleasurable (if not even more pleasurable) when you focus on the clitoris, not only the vagina and intercourse. This is a great option for people who aren’t quite ready to get back into penetration due to dryness, but are still looking for intimacy and orgasms. Learn more about how the clitoris works, here.
4. Schedule intimacy
Scheduling intimacy and sex is a great way to build anticipation and desire, identify turn ons, use time efficiently and improve your communication with a partner. This is a fantastic option for people who have gone through menopause and may not be feeling as turned on on a day-to-day basis, but are definitely looking to reconnect with their bodies and sexuality. For more on scheduled intimacy and self pleasure, read our tips and benefits of scheduling sex.
5. Turn down the temperature
When navigating life with menopausal symptoms, why not combine sex with something that soothes your hot flash and sweaties? Take your next steamy self pleasure sesh to the shower or romance yourself with a cool but sensual bath. You could even look for a waterproof sex toy that can be brought into a cold shower! (Talk about self care.)
Best vibrators for menopause
Speaking of sex toys, we’ve got plenty of advice to share. The trick to sex toy use during menopause is to focus on external pleasure and decentre vaginal penetration. And remember, you’re going through a huge life change, you deserve to engage in a little extra self care.
Here are our top vibrator picks for those going through menopause:
If you’re after an easy, external option that won’t add any confusion to your sex life, you can’t go past a classic bullet vibrator. A bullet vibrator is a staple sex toy that focuses on pinpointed pleasure, whether that be for the clitoris or another erogenous zone. VUSH’s Rose 2 Bullet Vibrator features a soft, flexible head that is perfect for a pleasurable vibration.
Clitoral suction vibrator
Why not give all your love to the clit? A clitoral suction vibrator is a unique sex toy that uses suction and air pulse technology to send waves of pleasure to the clitoris. VUSH’s Empress 2 Clitoral Suction Vibrator is the perfect starting point, as it has multiple pleasure settings and a gently curved design to fit nicely in your hand.
A palm vibrator is one of the most gentle, easy-to-use vibrators on the market. Palm vibrators offer broad sensations to a wide surface area, with the vibrations running through the entire toy along with a targeted precision tip. Their soft and squishy design won’t aggravate your most sensitive bits. VUSH’s Plump Palm Vibrator disguises itself as a beauty blender so no one else in the house will be second guessing your self care routine.
G Spot vibrator
If you do crave vaginal stimulation, go for a gentle and non-intimidating internal toy such as a subtle G Spot vibrator. G Spot vibrators are designed to stimulate the infamous G Spot from within the vagina. VUSH’s Myth G Spot Vibrator is the perfect option because it features a gently ridged head that works just as well on the outside (clitoris) as it does on the inside (vagina).
Read more on VUSH Stimulation
Want to learn more about how bodily changes can impact sex? Read our 6 tips for reclaiming your postpartum sexuality. We’ve also got articles all about the vulva and the clitoris, so we’ve got you covered when it comes to learning about sex and the body.