Is it normal to lose sex drive during menopause?

Since I started going through menopause, my husband and I rarely have sex anymore. Is that unhealthy?

Question:
Elizabeth Ricanati, M.D.
ABOUT THE EXPERT

Elizabeth Ricanati, M.D.

Elizabeth Ricanati, M.D., is the founding medical director of Lifestyle 180, an innovative Cleveland Clinic program aimed at treating and... Read more

Not necessarily. We all define for ourselves what happens within our relationships and what we consider “healthy” and “normal” sexual relationships. As we go through menopause, our minds and our bodies do change. This change may affect our sexual health as well. It’s important to understand what happens to your body during menopause so that you can identify problems with your health -- including your sex drive -- and take steps to minimize unpleasant effects.

As menopause kicks in, estrogen levels decline. This can cause a decrease in blood supply to the vagina, which can affect lubrication, making the vagina too dry for comfortable intercourse. The loss of estrogen can also make it harder for you to become aroused and may make you less sensitive to touching and stroking -- all of which can make you less interested in sex.

If vaginal dryness is the culprit, use water-soluble lubricants before intercourse. Do not use petroleum jelly or other nonsoluble lubricants because they can weaken the latex used in condoms, causing them to break. Petroleum jelly can also provide the ideal environment for bacteria to grow and potentially cause an infection.

If your decreased interest in sex is not related to a physical symptom of menopause, you have a few options to help put the spark back in your sex life. Focus on being intimate with your partner (remember, intimacy does not have to equal sex!). You can express your love and affection in many ways -- take long, romantic walks, enjoy candlelight dinners or give each other sensual massages. Talk to your partner about what you are experiencing, and share ideas on how both of your needs -- sexual, physical and emotional -- can be met. Read more about how to have a healthy sex life during menopause at 360-5.com.

Answer: