What happens to your ability to orgasm after menopause?
In the last few months I’ve talked to three women in my social circle who say that orgasm has completely stopped once they started menopause, though it was pretty easy before. For one woman it’s been ten years now, after having a great sex life when she was younger. And I’ve had several emails along these lines:
I have had absolutley NO problem getting to climax during intercourse, at least once if it multiply times (when I am greedy). We have been happily married for 26 years. For the last month I have been totally unable to orgasm. I am totally excited and almost there…but never get there. I know it is totally a ‘brain’ thing and I am in the moment. So do you have any suggestions as to what the problem may be?
As someone who is starting menopause myself, all of these emails and all these stories from friends have made me really nervous. Is my sex life over? After all, when I did my surveys for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I found that the best years for sex in marriage were years 16-24. After that it does take a dive. And I’m sitting at year 25 right now.
So I’ve started doing some research, in some of the gynecological journals and with some physician friends that I know. And they all say the same thing: orgasm can become harder after menopause, yes, but there is no medical reason that you can’t orgasm at all.
Let me repeat that.
Orgasm can become harder after menopause,
but there is no medical reason why you can’t orgasm at all.
When I was giving my Girl Talk down in Austin, Texas this year (my talk where I come into a church and and discuss why God made sex the way He did and how to make it awesome–along with a super fun Q&A), I met up with Dr. Carol Peters-Tanksley, a gynecologist who has guest posted for me before, and the author of Dr. Carol’s Guide to Women’s Health, and awesome resource of all things gynecological. It’s always fun to meet people I know online in real life!
How Can I Get a Girl Talk to Come to My Church?
Girl Talk is fun, seeker friendly, and informative, and you’ll find it’s an easy women’s event to get people out to (people really love talking about sex!)
And it’s affordable, too. The ticket price can cover my fee and expenses, and it’s a great way to bring different churches together.
So while we were in line for the food (yes, even speakers stand in line for food), I asked her all the menopause and orgasm questions I could. And then we followed up with some emails. Here’s what she said:
After menopause lubrication takes longer, and with the loss of estrogen lubrication diminishes. When it’s dry, it hurts! Talk with your doctor about vaginal estradiol. And don’t be afraid using one of the many lubricants available. Your response will be much easier when it doesn’t hurt.
And then she added this:
The orgasmic peak postmenopausal women experience may not feel quite as dramatic as in earlier years, but it can be intensely satisfying. If there’s one encouragement I have for postmenopausal women when it comes to sex, it’s SLOW DOWN! Longer foreplay, more conscious attention to what feels good, alternating between lighter and more intense stimulation – you’ve earned the right to take the time and enjoy it! You have every reason to continue to enjoy orgasmic sex for as many years as you wish.
So that’s a little bit encouraging!
But if it’s totally possible to orgasm, then why do so many women stop? I’m going to paraphrase her for a minute, mixed in with some other stuff I’ve read.
Why is Orgasm Difficult After Menopause?
Menopause affects several things:
- Our hormone levels change
- Blood flow to the genital area reduces (and it’s blood flow that causes things to enlarge and become aroused)
- Lubrication diminishes
What this adds up to is that:
- Women take much longer to get aroused (because of hormone levels)
- When we are aroused, we aren’t as “wet” (because of lubrication issues)
- When we are aroused, it often isn’t as great, and it’s harder to cross that threshold (because of blood flow issues)
Now, I realize that’s a vast oversimplification of how arousal after menopause works (and I know they’re all linked to hormonal changes, not changes on their own), but bear with me for a minute. What Dr. Carol is saying is that this doesn’t add up to an inability to orgasm; it just means that it may be more challenging.
Orgasm can become harder after menopause, but there is no medical reason why you can’t orgasm at all.
Why Can Some Women Orgasm After Menopause and Some Women Can’t?
So here’s the weird thing: these hormonal and blood flow changes happen to everyone. And yet some women have no problem with orgasm after menopause, and some women do. When I did my surveys for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, it wasn’t like nobody had an orgasm once they hit menopause. There was just a drop off. In years 21-29, for instance, 60.9% of women said that they usually or always had an orgasm when they made love. After thirty years it became 44.7%. So a definite drop off–but not everyone.
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I share who is most likely to reach “The Big ‘O'”, how often people make love, what impact age and years of marriage have, and even how guys feel about all of this.
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And yet these women weren’t saying that they only sometimes had an orgasm. They were saying they never did. How can that be?
I have a theory about this.
Orgasm After Menopause Becomes More Brain Focused than Body Focused
One of my friends who is really struggling described it this way:
It never used to be an issue for me at all! But now I’m finding that when my mind wanders I can’t get my mind focused again and arousal just stops. It’s like I have to concentrate. And my husband keeps saying, ‘Did I lose you? Where are you?’
I know that she and her husband have always had a great and active sex life, sort of like our letter writer there. But now she’s finding that her main battle is keeping her brain engaged.
For some of you, that doesn’t sound so weird, because you’ve been battling to keep your brain engaged for years already! In fact, that’s one of the huge things I talk about in my Boost Your Libido course–how we have to concentrate in order to feel aroused.
Some women, though, never really struggled with orgasm earlier in their marriage. And now they do.
So here’s where my special theory comes in:
I think that women who struggled with orgasm earlier in their marriage don’t have a big problem with orgasm after menopause, because for them orgasm is more brain focused already. Women whose bodies were responsive right out the gate when they got married, though, often struggle with orgasm after menopause because their sexual response was more tied to their body than their brain, and now their body isn’t cooperating.
In other words, some women have a hard time EARLY in their marriage. But because of the work they did figuring out how to orgasm and how to handle arousal, menopause isn’t as big a deal. Some women have an easy time EARLY in their marriage, but then when menopause comes, they have to relearn everything. They have to learn to make sex more brain focused than body focused.
They have to learn all of those things many wives already learned–about how to keep your mind focused; how to think sexually confident thoughts while you’re making love (like “I can turn him on!”, or “X makes me feel great!”); how to focus on certain body parts to enjoy the feeling.
So What Do You Do to Help with Postmenopausal Orgasm?
1. Keep your mind focused
Your body isn’t going to just carry you along anymore. You have to carry your body along.
2. Use a lubricant
These make sex feel luxurious! One of the great sponsors of my blog is Femallay, who has amazing vaginal suppositories that you insert just before sex, and that melt quickly and make you lubricated not just in the outer area but deep inside, too. And this means that you get far more feeling and sensation when you’re making love.
I’ve had readers write me back and tell me that they just love these! And their husbands do, too.
You can get them in one of twelve different flavours:
Or you can get it flavourless:
3. Talk to your doctor about topical hormonal creams
These aren’t lubricants, but instead creams that can help with blood flow to the area. If the problem is more that arousal starts but then comes to a standstill, then these creams can help you overcome that hurdle.
4. Relearn how to have sex after menopause
The commonality between my letter writer and all of my friends is that sex was really easy for them beforehand. I know there are some women who stop orgasm after menopause who struggled with sex earlier, too, and who never quite managed to figure it out, but often the problem seems worse for people who thought they had it all figured it out.
Now it doesn’t work at all anymore, and they thought they were good at this.
You just have to go back to square one and figure out how it works for you now, as if you’re starting all over again. Don’t think, “but this should work! This always works!” Your body is different now. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. But you may have to relearn what helps, and that may mean taking a LOT of time on foreplay. Even read this post from my friend about how she finally reached her first orgasm after she got married. You’re starting over, too.
I know menopause can be really, really lousy. I’m finding sleep is really hard! But when we think of it as relearning rather than just trying to get back to what it was, that really can help!
Tomorrow I’m going to share 10 things that can help with menopause symptoms, including some tips I got from many of you! But for today, remember: everything is likely new right now, because your body is different. Don’t give up because things have changed. Just make it a fun research project for your husband and you!
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