Menopause and Sex

  • 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.

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Quick GuideMenopause and Sex: 10 Ways to Deal With Menopause Symptoms

Menopause and Sex: 10 Ways to Deal With Menopause Symptoms

What are some symptoms of menopause that can affect sexual function?

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 difficulty sleeping, hot flashes, headache, mood changes, stress, anxiety, and bladder control issues. These symptoms alone are sufficient to affect sexual function in many women.

What are some treatments for troubling symptoms of menopause?

Estrogen therapy (ET) is available for women to treat symptoms of menopause, although due to some health risks (see below), not all women choose to take estrogen therapy. Estrogen, in pill, patch, trandsdermal spray, or gel form; is the single most effective therapy for troubling symptoms of menopause. Because ET alone can cause uterine cancer (endomketrial cancer), a progestin drug is typically given together with estrogen in women who have a uterus (those who have not undergone a hysterectomy) to eliminate this increased risk. Hormone therapy has been shown to have other risks, including small but significant risks of stroke and heart disease. Because of these risks, women who have no major menopausal symptoms may choose to avoid hormone therapy (HT) altogether. Most doctors agree that hormone therapy, when used for symptoms of menopause, should be used in the lowest effective dose and for the shortest time period of time possible.

Estrogen is also available for use in the treatment of vaginal dryness as an isolated symptom. Topical estrogen is available in forms of creams, vaginal rings (devices that secrete estrogen locally within the vagina for up to three months), and vaginal tablets. These products are inserted directly into the vagina, and they can help relieve some of the symptoms of vaginal dryness and discomfort. Water-soluble lubricants (such as K-Y jelly, K-Y Silk, liquibeads, etc.) can also be effective in the relief of vaginal dryness. Estrogen administered vaginally is given in very low doses, and it is noit associated with the risks of systemic (i.e. bloodborne) hormone  therapy such as that given to treat hot flashes and other widespread menopause symptoms.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/16/2016

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