The final cycle, the climacteric: A period which can last for up to 15 years and includes the pre-menopause, the menopause, and the post-menopause. And you, my dear, can enjoy sex in every one of the stages.
The menopause tends to be more feared than hoped for. Stigma, lack of understanding and hormonal changes all conspire to make this a time of uncertainty which could be cured by information, helping you to manage this stage and to live it the way it should be lived: fully and enjoying the journey.
But first, let’s give it a name, without euphemisms:
What is the climacteric period?
The climacteric stage is all about the changes a woman experiences before, during and after the menopause. In other words, the climactic stage encapsulates the pre-menopause, the menopause, and the post-menopause. The stage in which the menstrual cycle, and all it entails, starts to become more spaced out until it disappears; leaving a trail of considerable changes which settle down until they become the norm.
What is the menopause?
The menopause is the end of menstrual cycles. Derived from the Greek words mens, monthly, and pausi, cease, it is defined as the cessation of menstruation. It has physiological correlations; the end of menstrual cycles and fertility is the result of a lack of oestrogen secretion due to the loss of follicular function. It is natural and healthy, and part of the adult life stage; however, certain surgeries cause an immediate menopause, such as a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) and an oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries).
How do I know if the menopause has started?
The menopause starts between the ages of 45 and 55, although there are cases of early menopause (under 40, 6%), late menopause (over 55, 2%) and menopause which is induced by surgical intervention.
There are documented symptoms which would indicate that you have started the climacteric period and, therefore, that the start of the menopause has arrived. The most indicative symptom is menstrual irregularity. To be considered as having actually entered the menopause, a year must have passed since your last menstrual period. Before that point, you are in the pre-menopausal phase, in which bleeding occurs, but it is irregular and spaced out.
Other symptoms can also help you to identify this moment:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Difficulty sleeping
- Palpitations and tachycardia
- Mood changes: depression, irritability, etc.
- Vaginal dryness and dry skin
- Dyspareunia: pain during sex
- Decrease in libido
- Urinary issues: incontinence, bladder irritability, infections, etc.
- Weight increase: accumulation of fat around the tummy
REMEMBER: This information helps you to identify this stage, but you should get the information you need from a healthcare professional.
Menopause and loss of libido
This decrease in hormones means that there is a before and an afterwards. All the hormones that we release during the fertile phase of our lives assist in the development and functioning of our body as we know it during our cyclic stage. Oestrogen and progesterone, known as female hormones, are not only necessary for the menstrual cycle and for our vagina and uterus to be in good health, but they also have a positive effect on the health of our bones and help keep some blood cholesterol levels low.
A reduction in hormones means a drastic change in your body both physically and mentally. The discomfort of hot flushes, unleashed irritability, and depressive periods which some women face all increase just when our physical state is also waning. Increased weight and the redistribution of body fat, the start of osteoporosis and vaginal dryness are some of the most significant changes, and many of them contribute to a lack of libido. The reasons? Lack of self-esteem, insecurity, discomfort, or pain when having penetrative sex, low spirits… Even though women don’t all experience these changes in the same way, knowing what they are helps to prevent unnecessary frustrations: Embrace and enjoy your new reality.
We remind you that the menopause is indicative of good health when it arrives naturally and at the expected time. But the changes, well they really are changes; and one has to adapt. This is why, in terms of sex, it is important to understand the changes your body will undergo, mainly so that you can deal with the menopause as naturally and calmly as possible.
Seeking a professional opinion in this new stage of life is fundamental, as is listening to your body and your desires. Only you can take charge of your sexuality; don’t be swayed by the experiences of others, the norms nor the duty to please anybody other than yourself. Libido may drop, but it may not, and it may even increase.
Menopause and loss of lubrication
For some women, the menopause has a liberating effect when they realise that they can no longer get pregnant and their level of desire skyrockets (remember that condoms are essential for avoiding STIs). And there are other cases, as mentioned before, in which the opposite occurs for a variety of reasons. However, whatever your libido is like, dryness or lack of lubrication can cause itchiness, irritation and even dyspareunia (pain during sex). Regardless of your level of desire and how often you have sex, avoiding all discomfort is fundamental if you want to enjoy your sexuality to the full.
Psst: A water-based lubricant enriched with hyaluronic acid will help you to keep having discomfort-free sex whilst staying more hydrated than with a lubricant alone. Yes, you can enjoy sex after 50.
Accepting the changes your body is going through and adapting to this new situation is crucial and, today more than ever, there are tools for transforming a post-menopausal sex life into a full and satisfying sex life. The information being gathered today by experts, new research, increasingly fluid communication about sexuality, female empowerment, and advances in the sexual wellness sector – it’s all the most rich and fruitful it’s ever been. Use it.
Keep enjoying your sexuality after 50
Seeking advice from a healthcare professional is the first step when it comes to addressing any concerns or starting to treat bothersome symptoms, both in daily life and in your sex life. However, there are some guidelines that could help menopausal women have better sex and an improved quality of life.
Habits as basic as avoiding toxins such as alcohol or tobacco, sleeping well, eating a balanced diet, doing some exercise, and drinking enough water are fundamental. But also avoiding diuretic medications, which cause more vaginal dryness, or familiarising yourself with the side effects of antidepressant and anxiolytic drugs will help understand (and perhaps improve) the state of your libido.
Rediscovering your sexuality may help you reconnect with your sex life but from a different perspective. As in all stages of life, turning points give us the chance to reinvent ourselves, to learn and discover new points that we were previously unaware of. Masturbation, new practices, tantric sex, roleplay… Sex is not all about penetration. Vaginal dryness can be overcome with specific lubricants, but it also gives you the opportunity to explore the whole sexual spectrum which we are lucky to have. Enjoy!