Effects of Aging on Women's Sex Lives
SEX AND AGING
One of the unfortunate facts of life is that we all age and we all have to face the effects of that process eventually. It's important to realize though that changes in our bodies as well as changes in our sex lives (both male and female) isn't unusual.
However, does it mean that because women get older that they still can't enjoy healthy sex lives or be interested in being intimate with their partner? Emphatically the answer is no.
Studies show that women ranging in age from late 50s to 90 years old who enjoy healthy sex lives feel better about themselves and have a more positive outlook on life in general.
Interestingly, within this same age group, women who have an active sex life also take better care of themselves and are healthier.
Women who are experiencing the effects of aging don't have to give up their sex life and in fact, by devoting time and energy to this aspect of their life probably will remain healthier and happier for it and live longer.
The most important thing to remember is that everyone as they age experiences a decline in their sexual desire (libido). It's most often related to the decrease in hormones which occurs naturally over time in both men and women.
It's really important to remember the facts about sex and aging and not to pin symptoms of decreasing sexual activity on anything (or anyone) other than the pure and simple biologic process of growing older.
That said, there are some factors that can effect women's sex lives in later years. There are also ways to cope with those changes and still maintain a healthy sex life for many years to come.
SEXUALITY IN POSTMENOPAUSAL WOMEN
Many factors can change the way women feel about sex. Some of it in large part is due to hormones or more succinctly, lack of hormones. Just as men lose much of their production of testosterone, women lose or have a severe decrease in their production of estrogen.
Lack of estrogen leads to many menopausal and postmenopausal symptoms in women over the age of 50 but sometimes earlier. Especially if a women has to have surgery like a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) which oftentimes involves removal of the ovaries.
Without estrogen fueling a women's body, changes begin to occur. A woman can experience drier skin, which also can include vaginal dryness which means that there is less lubrication for sexual activity. It also can cause moodiness, depression, anxiety, bone loss and a host of other symptoms that were never present before.
While some women opt for hormonal therapy to maintain sexual activity and to feel better overall, many physicians don't recommend hormone therapy because of the increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening conditions in women such as blood clots. In truly severe cases, most providers will encourage estrogen creams to apply locally rather than systemic ingestion to reduce the risks as noted above.
Oftentimes along with the above symptoms, women experience an increase in weight. It seems to be a function of the changing metabolism without estrogen in a woman's body. Suddenly you have a slender woman turn into a more "pear-shaped" version of herself. This is extremely frustrating for most women and can have disastrous effects on self-image and confidence.
The most important thing to remember as we age is that it's a natural process. It's something out of our control in terms of physiological changes. We all must pass through and do the best we can to combat the effects aging has on us--while maintaining a positive outlook.
Diet and exercise are the best ways to cope with some of these changes in appearance and they also serve to help women stay in shape physically. A good healthy diet also aids in fighting depression and anxiety and helps women generally live longer.
Being in shape physically can also boost a woman's sexuality. Most women, if they feel good about themselves, are going to still be enjoying a healthy sex life because they have a good self image and want to share themselves with their partner. Even women who aren't perfect, as long as they maintain a good mental attitude about themselves and their age, enjoy great sex lives and don't fret about their body's changes.
Women who aren't able to have sex into their later years may want to look at the reasons for this. Are there health issues that are causing the lack of desire or are there possibly mental or emotional issues that are sabotaging a good sex life?
The complexities of the human body are mind boggling and many factors can have a negative impact on women's sex lives. It's important to consider all parts before determining what might need to be fixed. Talking to a professional in complete honesty is recommended as no matter what the underlying reason, if it's causing a change in your lifestyle, it's definitely an issue.
FACTORS THAT CAN AFFECT WOMEN'S SEXUALITY
Many things can affect a woman's desire at any time in life but the aging woman may be experiencing any of these conditions that can impact her sex life:
- Stress--no matter what age we are, we all have stressors and at certain times in our lives we deal with them better than others. If life demands are overwhelming, sometimes the first symptom is lack of desire for sex--analyzing what you can do to reduce stress in your life should eliminate the problem but if there are other issues, counseling is always a good option and one that can be pinpointed readily
- Diseases like diabetes or hypertension--these can negatively impact desire and arousal and medical doctors should be made aware of symptoms
- Medications used to treat the very diseases above can have sexual side effects that prevent arousal and desire--again, talking to a provider and trying different medications usually is the effective cure
- Arthritis or chronic pain syndromes--woman as they age may experience bone loss or develop arthritis making sex more painful--the answer here is to find ways to have sex that are less painful and stress bones and joints less--also to try mediating the pain
- Surgeries for things like cancer--oftentimes women who have had a mastectomy or other procedures feel that their desirability has been taken from them--being honest and talking things through with your partner is the only way to heal this fear and get back to the task of living--but the partner must be supportive and willing to listen
- Dementia--this can be rather upsetting to a partner especially if the partner wants to have sex but doesn't remember who they're having it with--being honest and open has to be part of the mix for situations like this but anything can be made to work if a solution is workable for both people
- Incontinence--especially for older women, this can be a problem and an embarrassing one at that--surgery is usually available to fix the problem--if not, workarounds have to be considered and employed by both partners
- Mental and emotional disorders--if a woman is prescribed certain medications, they can have a negative impact on sexual desire--it's important to make sure physicians and providers are aware of any troubling side effects such as lack of desire or failure to achieve orgasm and medication adjustments made
- Stroke or heart attack--men and women both sometimes are afraid to resume sexual activity for fear of bringing on another episode or attack--talking openly and honestly with medical professionals is key here and advice can range from different positions that are less stressful to other ideas for couples to try to alleviate their fears
- Vaginal dryness or pain--sometimes women become fearful if they have a bad experience with sex once they're older--talking this over with your partner is the best approach but also talking it over with medical professionals--there are lubricants which are water based on the market as well as vaginal moisturizers that can alleviate this problem immediately. Some women swear by estrogen creams and some use natural remedies such as black cohosh. It's usually a mechanical problem which can be easily fixed and should not inhibit anyone from normal sexual activity
SEX AND THE AGING WOMAN
Just because we age doesn't mean that we have to give up this great part of normal behavior between two partners. Maybe sex won't be the same as when we were 20, 30 or 40 but it can still be rewarding and meaningful to both parties.
The key is communication. In later years, things may have to change about the way a couple has sex and how often. The more honesty that you bring to the bedroom though, the better off both people will be. If there are functional problems, a health care provider is the best source.
Making the time to be intimate requires very little effort and the benefits both parties gain in being close are to coin a word--priceless.
Minimizing the use of alcohol or medications before sex is also a good plan of action.
Varying the time of day or the place for sexual encounters can add spark to the relationship and create new desire.
Being more spontaneous and allowing more time for sexual activity are really good ways to enhance your sex life when you're not a "spring chicken."
If the husband was always the initiator of sex, having the woman be the one to make advances might be just the ticket.
Watching movies together that create sexual desire or even reading manuals or romance novels have been proven to be excellent ways to stimulate couples to have better sex. The important thing to remember is that if both people are comfortable with it, it's healthy.
In a time when people are living to be older and older, it would seem a shame to give up something as good as sex just because we've aged a few years.
Consider sexual activity on the same level as taking medication for something--it's good for you and it will enhance your life. Make the time for it rather than letting it slide by thinking it's unnecessary any longer or that you're too old for it. Remember you're as young as you feel.
Also keep in mind that men experience many of the same symptoms and side effects of aging due to testosterone loss--it's called andropause.
If all else fails and someone is experiencing a less than pleasurable sex life, couples counseling is always an option. The idea that sex shouldn't be discussed or treated like any other medical condition is outdated. Sexuality is natural for every living, breathing creature on earth and like other aspects of our life, it should be embraced and treasured.
In a world of breakthroughs and medical miracles, there's always an answer. It just has to be looked at like any other problem and solved the best way possible.
This author plans to be too sexy for her skirt well into her 90s. I only hope that Bob is there with me and that we remember who the other person is! That would be gravy.