6 Research-Backed Reasons Some Women's Libidos Are Less Affected By Menopause
Menopause can affect women's sex lives in vastly different ways. For some, vaginal dryness can lead to sexual dysfunction and less interest in sex altogether. For others, sex is still considered highly important in midlife. So, what causes these profound differences in libido among menopausal women?
According to a study published in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), there are at least six potential reasons.
Why some women's libidos are less affected by menopause.
Researchers surveyed 210 women between 45 and 55 years old to determine how menopause affected libido. Whether or not participants experienced sexual dysfunction was assessed based on criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5). Researchers also analyzed each individual's body image state, sexual satisfaction, relationship quality, and menopausal symptoms through various measures.
The study was designed to understand how effective menopausal hormonal therapy (MHT) was in reducing sexual dysfunction after menopause, but the findings pointed to some other very interesting factors involved. The following experiences were linked with experiencing greater sexual satisfaction and functioning in women going through menopause:
- Positive attitudes about sex
- Positive body image
- Satisfaction with your relationship
- More lifetime sexual partners
- Positive experiences with sex, specifically those involving being attentive to one's own pleasure during sex
- Less severe physical menopause symptoms
Taken together, the physical symptoms aside, these results suggest that having a healthy relationship to your sexuality, in general, may be one of the most important factors for determining how our libido and sexual functioning shifts later in life.
"These results are consistent with the findings of prior studies and emphasize that factors other than use of hormone therapy, such as higher importance of sex, positive attitudes toward sex, satisfaction with one's partner, and fewer genitourinary symptoms associated with menopause, appear to be protective and are linked to better sexual function across the menopause transition," NAMS medical director Stephanie Faubion, M.D., MBA, said in a news release.
Using MHT wasn't linked with better sexual function, but the women who used MHT were among the most likely to experience these positive sexual experiences, including better relationship quality, more intimate relationships, and a more positive attitude toward sex, including a better quality sex life and more positive body esteem.
Who was more at risk of experiencing sexual dysfunction? Women who have anxious thoughts during and about sex and those with more severe menopausal symptoms.
Menopausal symptoms, like vaginal dryness and hot flashes, may make it difficult to have sex comfortably. Keeping vaginal moisturizers and lubricants in your medicine cabinet may help with the physical components.
But on a more emotional level, talking openly about the changes that menopause brings, cultivating intimacy with your partner beyond the physical, and finding ways to improve your relationship with your body, may all indirectly improve sex drive.
"The results also point toward the need for changing attitudes toward sex among women, as well as reevaluating the importance of sex," the researchers write in the paper. "It seems reasonable that both processes start in early childhood in building positive attitudes toward sexual activities and enhancing the role of sex in its diverse forms in achieving a better quality of life."
They add: "Women themselves, or with their partner, have to discover their sexuality once again in the new context of menopause."