Savvy - - Contents - Dr Duru Shah

Sex af­ter midlife

It is a pre­con­ceived

no­tion that as a woman draws nearer to 50, her de­sire for sex di­min­ishes. Dr Duru Shah, Di­rec­tor, Gy­naec­world, the Cen­ter for Women’s Health and Fer­til­ity, points out that this is far from the truth…


In the past, women were shy, too tied up with chil­dren and house­hold chores, did not have the pri­vacy of a bed­room or prob­a­bly were still sex­u­ally ac­tive, but did not speak about it. But to­day, we know that women are sex­u­ally ac­tive way be­yond the age of 50. They are more ex­pres­sive, de­mand­ing and vo­cal. They open up about their dif­fi­cul­ties and frus­tra­tions. The prob­lems com­monly seen are due to es­tro­gen (fe­male hor­mone) de­fi­ciency which re­duces dras­ti­cally at menopause or prob­lems which their hus­bands may have, mainly due to erec­tile dys­func­tion. Es­tro­gen de­fi­ciency causes vagi­nal dry­ness, which leads to pain dur­ing sex­ual ac­tiv­ity. Many men do not un­der­stand what their part­ners are go­ing through and this can cause dif­fi­cul­ties in their mar­riage, so a large num­ber of women go through their sex­ual life be­ing un­com­fort­able and some­times in pain, whilst a small per­cent­age seek pro­fes­sional help.

On the other hand, a woman may con­tinue to have the de­sire, but her hus­band has a phys­i­cal prob­lem, and fails to sat­isfy her, which she does not com­mu­ni­cate to him. The hus­band does not feel that it is nec­es­sary to seek med­i­cal ad­vice be­cause he him­self re­mains sat­is­fied or is too em­bar­rassed to see a doc­tor. This lack of di­a­logue be­tween the cou­ple re­lated to this part of their lives can lead to the stray­ing away of cou­ples from each other.

In a study car­ried out in South Amer­ica, about 400 women were eval­u­ated for sex­ual dys­func­tion with 33% be­ing menopausal be­tween the ages of 40-59 years. 55% of the women com­plained of sex­ual dif­fi­culty due to vagi­nal dry­ness and their prob­lems got worse when their hus­bands had as­so­ci­ated erec­tile dys­func­tion, yet all of them con­tin­ued to re­main sex­u­ally ac­tive!


Sex­ual well-be­ing is an in­te­gral part of liv­ing and there is a stereo­typed view on sex­ual ac­tiv­ity and age­ing. Many false be­liefs ex­ist about sex­u­al­ity in an older age. Even though sci­en­tific stud­ies have shown that there is a de­cline in the fre­quency of older women’s sex­ual ac­tiv­ity, there is al­most no ev­i­dence to sug­gest that older women have a de­crease in sex­ual in­ter­est and de­sire.

Some stud­ies have shown that 70% of women be­tween 50-90 years are sex­u­ally ac­tive, whilst most of the stud­ies in­di­cate that 50% of women are sex­u­ally ac­tive, with 40% re­port­ing ac­tiv­ity at least once a month. It is well-known that women who are sex­u­ally ac­tive at an older age, have bet­ter phys­i­cal and emo­tional health, as com­pared to women who are not ac­tive.

OPEN UP! It is im­por­tant for us to re­vise our thoughts on this sub­ject and try and see that th­ese is­sues are ad­dressed at ev­ery age. Sex­ual dif­fi­cul­ties which oc­cur fol­low­ing menopause, can be min­i­mized by the use of oral or vagi­nal hor­mone ther­apy and or the use of vagi­nal lubri­cants. There are many doc­tors who do not ad­dress this is­sue by not ask­ing a di­rect ques­tion on this sub­ject, whilst women may feel em­bar­rassed to open the dis­cus­sion with their doc­tors es­pe­cially if they are from the op­po­site gen­der. There have been very few women who have voiced their dif­fi­cul­ties on their own, but when asked di­rectly, they def­i­nitely speak about their prob­lems and how they are cop­ing with it.

So, open up and feel free to claim your sex­u­al­ity - your age not­with­stand­ing.

It is well-known that women who are sex­u­ally ac­tive at an older age, have bet­ter phys­i­cal and emo­tional health.

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