Doctor of Physical Therapy, Women’s Health Certified Specialist, Certificate of Achievement in Pelvic Physical Therapy
Sex After Menopause
When we enter menopause, our body goes through many hormonal changes. This is particularly important for the pelvic area. Your pelvic floor, pelvic organs, and vaginal canal are full of estrogen receptors that are meant to keep the tissue supple and healthy. Once this estrogen is depleted, this will affect the above structures in a negative way. This can lead to issues such as thinning of vaginal tissue, decreased blood flow to the pelvic area, vaginal dryness, and pelvic floor dysfunction.
One of the biggest problems post-menopausal women experience is pain during intercourse. This is typically caused by common symptoms of menopause such as vaginal dryness, vaginal tissue thinning, and pelvic muscle tension. There are a few different treatment methods that can be used to help decrease these post-menopausal symptoms. Using a good water-based lubricant during intercourse can help decrease friction on the thinner vaginal tissue, thus decreasing pain. There are also vaginal moisturizers available that can help combat vaginal dryness which may also reduce pain.
When pain is present, the pelvic floor muscles are often involved. When someone has pain with sex, the pelvic floor muscles with try to guard against pain, making them tense even more, thus causing more pain. Working with a pelvic health physical therapist is a great way to decrease pelvic floor muscle tension, thus decreasing pain with intercourse.
Urinary incontinence is another common problem that can occur after menopause that may impact your sex life. It is not uncommon to experience urinary leakage during intercourse, which can lead to increased anxiety, embarrassment and decreased overall sex drive. Your urethra, bladder, and pelvic floor muscles are packed with estrogen receptors, and with decreased estrogen after menopause, problems like this can occur.
Pelvic floor muscle weakness is another common cause of urinary incontinence. The pelvic floor muscles may lose strength and blood floor after menopause, both of which can contribute to bladder leakage. Working with a pelvic health physical therapist can help improve pelvic floor muscle strength which will reduce urinary incontinence. Completing pelvic floor exercises will also improve blood flow to the pelvis itself, also improving muscle and tissue strength!
Changes in sexual function can be an unfortunate side effect of menopause, but the good thing is there are things you can do to help! By doing the few simple things listed above, you can maintain a healthy, fun sex life throughout your life span!