The 2 Most Common Sexual Concerns In Mature Women + How To Address Them
Let's talk about sex: While many people remain sexually active well into their older years, studies have revealed that following menopause and as women age, they're increasingly likely to experience painful sex and lack of desire. And unfortunately, these topics carry a lot of stigma—but it's time to change that.
In a new video, Discussing Sexual Health Concerns With Your Health Care Professional—with past North American Menopause Society (NAMS) president and menopause expert Marla Shapiro, MDCM, CCFP, MHSc, and Sheryl Kingsberg, Ph.D., from University Hospitals in Cleveland—the pair explain the most common sexual issues that women deal with later in life, to shine a spotlight on this crucial conversation.
What are the common sexual concerns for women?
- Lack of desire
- Lack of arousal
- Pain with intercourse
- Inability to reach orgasm
Which are most common for older women?
According to Kingsberg, painful sex and lack of desire are two of the most common issues that women deal with during menopause and beyond. "Many women believe that sexual dysfunction is a natural part of aging," she says. "Part of that is true, but that doesn't mean we can't do something about it. Women color their hair to look younger and go to the gym to feel better. But when it comes to sexual concerns, most simply live with them without asking whether help is available."
Kingsberg also notes that "probably around 40 to 45% of women have a sexual concern." While sexual dysfunction is openly discussed in men, it's become a taboo topic among women that is not often addressed by a health care professional. However, bringing these issues to light is the best way to make sure you're enjoying sex throughout the entirety of your life—as you should!
How can you improve your sex life?
"It is up to women to empower themselves to be able to ask for help," says Kingsberg. "It is their health care practitioner that is responsible for helping them with their sexual care."
Addressing any concerns with your doctor will allow you to create a path to care that can treat a lack of sexual interest or pain during sex, but taking your sexual well-being into your own hands is necessary to enjoy sex well into your 70s and 80s (as studies1 suggest many women hope to do).
For more tangible advice, OB/GYN Susan Hardwick-Smith, M.D., previously told mbg, "As we experience hormonal and physical changes in midlife, vaginal intercourse becomes increasingly difficult, if not agonizingly impossible. There are countless other ways to express intimate physical contact—the only criteria is that it creates pleasure for both parties." She suggests focusing on cuddling, touching, and showing displays of sexual intimacy in your day-to-day that will boost connection and make you feel closer to your partner.
What's more, services like pelvic floor physical therapy may be helpful, as well. (You can read all about one woman's successful experience with PT treatment for painful sex here.)
While sexual desire and function may certainly ebb and flow throughout your life, there's no reason to move sex to the back burner simply because of age. You can still have great sex (maybe even the best sex of your life) during and after your menopausal years. But if you encounter issues, it's vital to actually bring them up with a health care professional to allow you to reclaim your sexual power and identity.
Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career, and formerly worked at SheFinds. Her byline has also appeared in Women’s Health. In her current role, she writes and edits for the health, movement, and food sections of mindbodygreen. Readman currently lives in New York City.