Samantha Evans is our guest blogger this month. She is former nurse and co-founder of jodivine.com, who specialises in sexual health. Here she gives her expert advice on being able to enjoy intimacy and pleasure during the menopause.
I advise many women and their partners about ways to enjoy sexual intimacy and pleasure when they experience menopausal symptoms such as vaginal atrophy, recommending suitable sexual lubricants, vaginal moisturisers, sex toys and dilators to help them overcome painful sex and explore new ways to remain intimate beyond penetration.
Many women experience Vaginal Atrophy (VA), known in the medical profession as Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM), a symptom whereby the vagina walls become thinner, less lubricated and inflamed due to decreased oestrogen. Some women experience urinary symptoms too.
Many women are often too embarrassed to speak to their GP believing it is a normal part of the menopause they have to live with or there is no treatment.
Yet by combining both medical treatments with exploring new ways to enjoy sexual intimacy and pleasure you can continue to enjoy a great sex life.
Speak to your GP
Your GP can prescribe several effective medical treatments which may help, including local oestrogen in ring/cream/tablet form internally and externally on the vulval area which helps to increase blood supply and rejuvenate the tissues.
You may need to try several products before discovering what works for you.
Talk to your partner
Many women struggle to talk about painful sex with their partner due to embarrassment and give up on sex completely or continue to endure painful sex which is neither pleasurable or good for their vagina health or their relationship.
Many women who enjoy pleasurable sex get frustrated and angry that their sex life has come to a halt because it feels painful.
Be honest with your partner as they probably have no idea about how you are feeling and may think you no longer love or desire them. Tell them why you don’t want to have sex, don’t want to be touched intimately or no longer enjoy sex.
Make time to talk about how you feel and explore new ways to enjoy sexual intimacy and pleasure beyond penetration.
Choose the right sexual lubricant
Using a lubricant is a simple way to overcome painful sex and to enhance your pleasure.
To keep your vagina happy and healthy use a pH balanced lubricant. Many commercial lubricants contain ingredients such as propylene glycol, parabens, perfume, dyes or glycerin, all of which are known vaginal irritants and may cause thrush. Avoid using “tingling” or “warming“ lubricants too. Always check the ingredients before you buy or ask your GP before they prescribe you a product.
Have regular orgasms
Enjoying regular orgasms can help you to sleep, often an issue during the menopause due to night sweats, promote vaginal lubrication and help to exercise your pelvic floor.
However, many women find it difficult to have an orgasm, there are various factors that can affect this such as stress or depression, being unable to relax, relationship problems, all of which are also commonly associated with menopause. The good news is, there are lots of positive steps you can take to overcome these issues and achieve regular orgasms. Start by exploring your feelings about yourself, sex and relationships and talk openly and honestly with your partner. Speak to your GP, they will be able to help you find out if there’s a physical reason, if the cause is not physical, they may refer you to a sex therapist. Many women find it easy to climax through masturbation and exploring with sex toys can be a great way to assist.
Explore sex toys
VA causes vaginal tightness making penetrative sex feel painful. Many women are prescribed medical dilators to help them to dilate the vagina to enable them to enjoy penetrative sex.
Some find these uncomfortable and prefer to use a slim silicone vibrator with lubricant to gently dilate the vagina, as it feels less clinical and more pleasurable, the vibrations also stimulate the blood flow to the vagina walls. You can also combine using silicone dilators with a vibrator too.
Thinking about the way in which you view sex and enjoying sexual pleasure can help you enhance your relationship.
Incorporating sex toys into your sex play is a great way to enjoy new ways to be intimate. You may find yourself masturbating or having your partner stimulate your clitoris for longer if you are struggling to orgasm which can leave the vulva feeling sore when you have VA so using a clitoral stimulator can really help speed things up and offer new sexual sensations too.
A simple bullet vibrator also offers intense sexual sensations when used along the shaft of the penis or around the head in addition to pleasurable nipple stimulation.
Some products don’t vibrate but gently caress and tease the clitoris using Air Pulse technology especially if your vulva feels sensitive.
Sex toys are not just for women, there are great products for men and couples, which offer different sexual sensations not possible during sexual intercourse.
Sexual intercourse isn’t solely the act of sexual penetration, but the whole experience. You can still experience great sex without intercourse through prolonged foreplay and experimenting with toys and role play or simply enjoying cuddling, intimate touching, massage and kissing. Many couples experience a greater level of sexual intimacy when penetrative sex is off the cards because they become more creative with their sex play.
Don’t give up on your sex life, speak to your GP, talk to your partner, explore sex toys and have some fun in whatever way feels pleasurable for you!
Samantha Evans, a former nurse co-founded Jo Divine, an online sex toy company, with her husband Paul in 2007.
“Whoever you are, I passionately believe that it is always possible to enjoy sex by being imaginative, adventurous and making it fun and I’m always exploring ways for both men and women to take control of their sexual health to increase their sexual pleasure and general wellbeing.
I also work with many healthcare professionals by helping them to discuss practical ways to enjoy sexual intimacy and pleasure.
At Jo Divine we believe that sexual health and sexual pleasure go hand in hand and have created a health brochure with suitable products to help people with sexual issues. Working with medical professionals, we hope to encourage patients and HCPs alike in talking more freely about sexual problems. A health issue doesn’t mean your sex life will have to stop!”