The old bromide is that sexual satisfaction for women declines with age … but does it really? New research is challenging the notion that women are doomed to ho-hum sex lives once they near menopause.
In small new study partially funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and presented last week, researchers conducted interviews with 20 women between ages 45 and 60 about their satisfaction in the bedroom. Despite popular belief, a lot of these women claimed to enjoy their sex lives more, although they did the deed less often.
Study author Holly Thomas, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said the uptick in satisfaction was because women “felt more confident and more comfortable in their own skin as they got older, and this allowed them to feel more free in the bedroom,” according to WebMD News from HealthDay. “They had a better knowledge and understanding of their own bodies as they got older. And they felt more comfortable and empowered to communicate their sexual needs to their partner than when they were younger.”
This knowledge runs counter to a body of research showing women tend to be less happy with sex around middle age, often due to physical issues like vaginal dryness. For answers, the researchers dug deeper and focused on face-to-face interviews and focus groups to get a more well-rounded view of the sexual issues plaguing women after 45. In total, they interviewed 20 women and conducted focus groups with an additional 19.
Some of the study participants claimed they had sex less often, achieved orgasm less frequently, and dealt with vaginal dryness — all of which generally affected satisfaction. However, more women pinpointed family and work stress as the major reason for sexual downturn, not biology’s ever-ticking clock. On top of that, they also said they adjusted to these changes.
The researchers say that women are often encouraged to try hormone treatments during midlife but that we need to remember not all sexual issues are biologically based; this is a time where kids leave the nest, college expenses arise, and women are reaching a career apex. Activities and positions to increase intimacy with your partner and make sex more enjoyable, despite stressors, may make a world of difference.
That said, some women do experience physical issues when they hit menopause or perimenopause, says Fahimeh Sasan, DO, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
The top complaint among this group of women women is vaginal dryness. “Lubrication is often the best treatment, and for many women, this is all they need,” Sasan tells Yahoo Beauty. “An example is K-Y [Jelly], which you can get over the counter.” In addition, some perimenopausal or menopausal women “may need vaginal estrogen cream to treat the dryness,” so talk to your doctor if simple lubrication does not help.
But overall, Sasan says she sees many women who have vibrant sex lives after menopause. “Women can continue to have active sex lives at any age; it’s a personal choice,” she insists. “Sex is a natural part of life, and can be emotionally and physically stimulating.”
“Age does not define sexuality,” she says. “As long as you are being safe, it is a wonderful part of life.”