One of the more frequent questions we get is centred around libido and, by association, vaginal dryness.
In many cases, the two go hand in hand.
Not Tonight Darling I’ve Got A Headache
Lack of libido can be due to declining levels of estrogen and androgens. Lower estrogen – our ‘juice’ hormone – can also lead to vaginal dryness and/or dyspareunia (painful intercourse). Couple that with mood swings, hot flushes, depression, anxiety, feeling ‘blah’ due to weight gain or urinary incontinence and you’ve got a perfect storm for ‘not tonight darling, I’ve got a headache’.
You’re Not Alone
If you can relate to these words you’re not alone even though you may feel that way as it’s not something most people talk about.
However, there are a lot of us out there. A study conducted by Professor Susan David at Melbourne’s Monash University Women’s Health Research Program outlines this. The research showed that 70 percent of women aged 40-65 experience loss of interest in sex with 21 percent of those experiencing discomfort during or after intercourse from vaginal dryness. (Note: Given what I’ve learned from our community I wonder if that latter figure might actually be more.)
Monash research found that sexual difficulties for women increase at midlife with the most common being:
– loss of interest in sex
– inability to relax
– painful sex (dyspareunia)
– arousal difficulties
– inability to orgasm (anorgasmia)
The University says: Women with vaginal dryness are more likely to experience painful sex, arousal difficulties, more frequent masturbation, and less physical and emotional sexual satisfaction. An important observation is that despite the reduction in desire and increase in pain seen, the frequency of sexual activity does not seem to change. (source).
Different Strokes for Different Folks
If you’re happy to let your sex life go, you’re not unusual either. As with most things in life its a case of different strokes for different folks. But even if – as far as you’re concerned – your sex life is over, it’s still important to keep your lady bits healthy. Vaginal dryness may lead to bladder infections or discomfort doing everyday things you enjoy.
Why Does Our Vagina & Sex Drive Change?
As we grow older a natural decline occurs with sex hormones like progesterone aka ‘nature’s Valium’, ‘juicy’ estrogen and androgens like ‘sexy’ testosterone.
As the adjectives in quote marks suggest these have a lot to do with our sexual and pelvic health so as our levels reduce we may begin to experience decreased lubrication, lesser elasticity, an altered vaginal pH leading to changes in odour and susceptibility to bladder infections, decreased pelvic floor strength and urinary incontinence.
So what’s a girl to do?
During menopause the adrenals take over from the ovaries when it comes to estrogen – and for the purposes of this discussion – testosterone. Adrenals are the home of cortisol, which is also known as the stress hormone. Some cortisol is healthy and essential to our everyday functioning. But if we get too much our sex hormones shut down and our sex drive nosedives.
We know this is a tough call as it’s not quite that simplistic. However, many doctors prescribe antidepressants for women in midlife as a first point of call. According to all reports, the figures are staggering. Personally I’ve found nutrition, exercise and mindfulness are far more effective at beating the ‘black dog’. However, the most important point here is that the side effects of antidepressant medications include lack of sexual desire.
Be kind to yourself
If you’ve put on weight or are feeling hot, sweaty and irritable the inner mean girl in your head is probably going to beat you up. That’s just what she’s like. “I’m so (insert word) at the moment, how on earth is John going to find me sexy?” Or “Argh, I want to scream at John right now, I definitely don’t want to get snuggly!” That’s when it might be a good idea to take yourself off for an Epsom salts bath (the magnesium in it is so good), or better yet a pampering session at the beauty therapist. Or try practicing mindfulness. There really is wisdom is ‘oooommmmm’. Clarity can help teach you. It’s a wonderful app designed for menopausal women (created by an Australian living in London.)
See a therapist
It might sound woo woo but talk therapy can be beneficial when you’re experiencing tough times. There are many theorists who say that if you haven’t dealt with stuff earlier in life it will come out during midlife/menopause. I’m not sure of the statistics for that but I have seen it happen and have experienced it myself. Food for thought.
Talk to your partner
This is a time that can put a strain on relationships. They’re not without their challenges at the best of times so it might be timely to recognise and work on any underlying issues. Talk with your partner and explain what’s going on with you and your body. Feel free to use our Library. Understanding from loved ones can be priceless during the meno years.
Keep your estrogen as balanced as possible
When estrogen is low we get moody and irritable and when it’s too high (as is common during perimenopause) we can get bloated and gain weight – both libido killers. Lucky for you we have 40+ and 55+ which don’t increase or decrease estrogen but work with your body’s metabolism to balance it.
Have a full thyroid test
The thyroid is influential to every cell and system in the body including sexual health. Many women experience thyroid issues during the meno years so it’s important to keep an eye on it. Thyroid disorders have often been implicated in sexual dysfunction and can also contribute to fatigue, weight gain, and depression. In fact, thyroid disease has been shown to cause loss of desire, painful sex and a lack of fantasies. For a full reading, you need your TSH levels checked along with your T3 and T4 levels which a functional medicine doctor will provide. Most GPs only order TSH readings.
Look at your prescription medications
We’ve discussed antidepressant medication earlier and if you’re still taking birth control it’s a good idea to try and find an alternative. Birth control pills are designed to suppress various sex hormone processes, which makes the loss of sexual desire a pretty common side effect. They’ve also been associated with vaginal dryness.
Get nutrient savvy
Indulge in plenty of colourful vegetables for energetic vitality, sea vegetables for thyroid health, flaxseeds, good fats like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and oily fish for lubrication, lean proteins, and whole grains. Avoid processed foods, refined sugar, coffee, and alcohol. If you’re indulging in a lot of the latter it will cause blood sugar spikes and result in energy and mood crashes. Not ideal for getting your sexy on.
Moving your body gets the blood and oxygen flowing to your body’s bits. It also helps fight off depression, strengthen your core (good for sexual satisfaction) and manage weight. The trick is not to overdo it – go too hard out and your cortisol will go through the roof causing your libido to crash and burn. Over-exercising can be super hard on a woman’s hormones, but walking, yoga, Pilates, LIIT (low intensity internal training) and small doses of HIIT (high intensity interval training) are essential to good health and a healthy sex drive.
Strengthen your pelvic floor
A strong pelvic floor doesn’t just help with urinary incontinence and leakage it can also help with sexual satisfaction and orgasm. Kegel exercises are helpful however many of us don’t perform them correctly. The very best ways we’ve found to do work with a specialist physiotherapist or use the Elvie Trainer.
Extra Help For Vaginal Dryness:
I’m excited to tell you about the research regarding EstroG-100TM, the herbal trio we use in 40+ and 55+ and its effect on vaginal dryness.
The herbal root extracts in EstroG-100 TM are: Cynanchum wilfordii, Phlomis umbrosa, and Angelica gigas Nakai. All of them have been tested in both laboratory and human studies of pre-, peri- and post-menopausal women and found to be effective for common signs of peri/menopause including vaginal dryness and dyspareunia (painful intercourse) after three months use.
Clinicaleducation.org sites “significant improvement in vaginal dryness” when reporting the studies and our own reports tell us the vaginal dryness improvement is ‘notable’, which isn’t shown with the use of other natural menopause aids like black cohosh or isoflavones.
Other helpers I suggest for vaginal dryness are supplementing with omega 3/6 oils (like fish oil, evening primrose oil or blackcurrant seed oil), the topical application of coconut oil can be a lubrication aid (fractionated coconut oil is a drier – less oily/messy – form), and we like the natural lubricant Sylk.
We hope implementing a few of these tools give you back your mojo. They certainly should.
Please comment below and let us know if this was helpful for you, and if you would like some one-on-one help don’t hesitate to get in touch here.
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