KEEP THAT LOVING FEELING
During the menopause, levels of the sex drive hormone testosterone fall and lack of estrogen can cause vaginal dryness, loss of collagen and blood supply depleting sensitivity in the area. If that were not enough, lower self-esteem because of ageing, middle age weight gain, family responsibilities – plus bedroom boredom after years with the same partner – they can all mitigate against nights of passion!
An amazing 40% of women experience menopausal sexual and relationship problems, so if symptoms are making sex difficult you need to explain what’s going on. “If your partner doesn’t know how you feel, he or she can’t be supportive,” says Dr Mullin.
Don’t be afraid of using HRT to treat hot flushes or vaginal dryness, she adds, because doses are very low. “There are also non-hormonal and herbal supplements that can alleviate symptoms – but check with your GP that products such as plant oestrogens from soy, for example, will not interact with other medication. They are also unsuitable if you have had, or are being treated for, breast cancer.”
“Vaginal moisturisers such as Replens and Sylk are available over the counter and some on prescription,” says Dr Mullin. “They need to be used for several weeks before they are effective enough to make sex more comfortable. Products that contain silicone are specifically for sex.
“However, vaginal estrogen is the most effective. It is not a form of HRT because it is not absorbed elsewhere, it just treats that part of the body. It is a very low dose and can even be used by women who have breast cancer or are at higher risk of blood clots.”
The principle of use it or lose it applies to sex, says Dr Mullin – without use, the vagina will shrink in size, making sex even more difficult.
Communication and support are