Dyspareunia (di·spuh·roo·nee·uh); Medical term for recurrent and persistent pain before, during, and after sex.
Sex can be painful for men and women alike.
According to studies, up to 45% of postmenopausal women have reported having experienced painful sex.
Menopause is a natural part of aging. During this time, women experience different changes in their menstrual cycle, such as irregular periods, decreased sex drive, and other symptoms. While these changes are normal, they can cause discomfort and disrupt daily life.
Related: Menopause and Nausea
Why Does It Happen?
Women who are yet to go through menopause, or are in the postmenopausal stage, can experience sex-related pain.
There are multiple possible causes of painful sex during menopause. Infected urinary tract infections and vaginal atrophy are known causes, but an estimated 20% of postmenopausal women may experience Postcoital Dysphoric Disorder (PCDD).
PCDD differs from pain caused by other issues that may originate in the urinary tract or the vagina. PCDD is a psychiatric disorder that can be treated with antidepressant medicine.
Other causes of this pain are many and varied, such as:
As a woman ages and her levels of estrogen drop, she may experience vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal walls. The decrease in estrogen also means less natural lubrication for intercourse. This can cause pain because there is no lubrication or cushioning for the penis to enter the vagina without friction or injury.
Vaginal dryness occurs when the vagina doesn’t produce enough lubrication. It’s caused by low estrogen levels and may occur at any age. Symptoms include burning, itching, irritation, soreness, and discomfort.
During intercourse, the muscles surrounding the vagina contract, squeezing blood vessels and nerves. As these muscles relax, pressure builds and causes pain.
As women age, their libidos decrease. The lower libido makes it harder to have an orgasm.
Decreased Sexual Desire
Women often feel less sexually aroused after menopause. However, some women still enjoy sex.
Loss Of Sensitivity
After menopause, the clitoris can shrink and lose sensitivity. This decreases arousal and pleasure.
This condition causes muscles in the vaginal wall to contract involuntarily; vulvodynia. It is characterized by chronic vulvar pain, or endometriosis, where tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of it and causes pelvic pain.
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How to Deal with Vaginal Pain During and After Menopause
Untreated vaginal pain can become severe, causing some women to give up on sex altogether.
In case of sudden vaginal pain, Two types of treatments are available: physical therapy and medication. Physical therapy may include pelvic floor muscle training (Kegel exercises) or vaginal dilators.
Additionally, you can opt for common remedies such as:
- Using a vaginal moisturizer
- Using a lubricant during sex
- Trying toys such as vibrators
- Getting into foreplay before sex
You can also opt for making lifestyle changes such as:
Exercise helps relieve pain and discomfort associated with menopausal symptoms. Regular exercise reduces anxiety, depression, insomnia, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness. Exercise also increases blood flow to the pelvic region, which may help ease painful sex.
Massage therapy is a simple yet effective way to relax muscles and increase circulation. A massage therapist can provide relief for many menopausal women who experience muscle tension and soreness.
You can take herbs orally to reduce inflammation and promote relaxation. Chamomile tea, chaste berry, red clover, and black cohosh have been shown to decrease hot flashes and improve sleep quality.
You can apply hot compresses directly to the skin to relieve pain and discomfort. Heat can stimulate blood flow and dilate blood vessels, which can help alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause.
Applying relaxation techniques like tai chi and yoga can help reduce stress and increase self-awareness. These practices can help you learn how to manage stress and cope with menopausal symptoms.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese practice that involves inserting needles at specific points along the body to balance the flow of energy. Acupuncture is also used to treat chronic conditions such as arthritis, migraines, and menstrual cramps.
Meditation helps you focus your mind and clear your thoughts. Many people report feeling less anxious and calmer after meditating regularly.
Related: CBD Oil and Estrogen
How to Keep Sex Hot Despite Ageing – 4 Steps to Pleasure
Experiencing menopause forces you to make some changes to accommodate your body and comfort level. Therefore, it really boils down to being proactive about menopause and feeling better as time progresses.
- Be Open-Minded
If you want to spice up your sex life, you need to be open-minded about what turns you on. If you’re not willing to try anything new, you’ll never find out if something else could work for you. Try experimenting with different positions, toys, and techniques to figure out what works best for you.
- Get Comfortable
You should feel free to explore your body and know how it responds to touch. Don’t worry about being embarrassed or self-conscious; just let yourself go. Take your time exploring each other’s bodies, and pay attention to any sore spots or places you haven’t touched before.
- Make Eye Contact
Eye contact is a great way to connect with someone. Your partner will know you’re interested in them when you look into their eyes. Look at them while being intimate.
- Use Lube
Lube makes everything easier and smoother and helps prevent friction and pain. There are many types of lube, including water-based lubricants, silicone-based lubricants, oil-based lubricants, and even natural lubricants.
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Sex Shouldn’t Suck After 50: What Next?
While women must face the reality of the pain they are feeling, they do not have to succumb to it. Menopause-related discomfort can be dealt with and managed.
It is important to keep in mind that pain during sexual activity could be caused by relationship problems or performance anxiety. Talk to your gynaecologist about possible menopause treatment options if you experience painful sex during menopause and its cause is unclear.
Just remember: many mature men and women continue to enjoy sex throughout the years following menopause—and you should too!