Sex and Menopause: Answers About Pain, Low Sex Drive, and Helpful Treatment Tips

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Painful Intercourse, a Symptom of Menopause

Painful intercourse can occur in women due to:

  • the lack the natural lubrication of in the vagina due to menopause or another disease or condition,
  • the involuntary contraction of the vaginal muscles,
  • a condition known as vaginismus,
  • genital infections, including the sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or
  • abnormalities or tumors of the female genital tract.

Quick Guide10 Ways to Deal With Menopause Symptoms

10 Ways to Deal With Menopause Symptoms

Will I have a low sex drive or other intimacy problems during menopause?

  • Although menopause may have some negative effects on sexual function, this is not always the case.
  • Each woman's experience of menopause is unique; not all women have the same symptoms or experience symptoms with the same degree of severity.
  • Decreases in estrogen levels after menopause can cause a decrease in libido.
  • Vaginal dryness is another symptom of menopause that can have an impact on sexual function.
  • Hormone therapy and water-soluble lubricants are two ways to help relieve vaginal dryness associated with menopause.
  • Other symptoms of menopause, such as trouble sleeping and mood swings, can also interfere with enjoyment of sexual activity.

How does menopause affect sexual function in women?

Just as every women experiences menopause differently, women may or may not experience changes in sexual function after menopause. Since estrogen levels are lower after menopause, some women may notice that their libido, or sex drive, is decreased. Low estrogen levels can also lead to a decreased blood flow to the vagina, resulting in difficulty with lubrication or in dryness which that can make sexual intercourse less pleasant and painful for many women.

Not all women report negative changes in sexual function after menopause. For example, some women may find sex to be more pleasurable without the fear of unwanted pregnancy or without the potential stresses of having small children.

Symptoms of peri - and -menopause that can affect sexual desire

A decrease in estrogen levels is the hallmark of menopause, and this change in hormone level can cause a number of different symptoms. Not all women experience all the characteristic symptoms of menopause, but some women may have more severe symptoms than others. In addition to vaginal dryness and decreased libido, menopause can be associated with other troublesome symptoms that can affect sexual drive and function. Examples of these symptoms include:

These symptoms alone are sufficient to affect sexual function in many women.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/29/2017

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