Renew Youth Explains: Why Balanced Hormones are Vital for Sex After Menopause

Renew Youth’s hormone treatments improve desire, lubrication, and orgasm after menopause.

Sex after menopause. It doesn’t get talked about often. And yet, contrary to what some people may think, women do continue to be sexual beings as they age.

According to a survey presented at the North American Menopause Society, almost half of women believe that it’s normal for sexual function to decline after menopause, and only about a third had ever tried to get help correcting the menopause symptoms that were interfering with their sex lives. A whopping 81 percent didn’t know that “vaginal atrophy” or age-related vaginal dryness—a common issue for many menopausal women—is a medical condition.

Despite the lack of awareness surrounding the issue, the reality is that menopausal women need and deserve great sex as much as anyone. After all, sex at any age delivers real benefits for physical, emotional, and mental health.

Over the past 20 years, Renew Youth has helped countless women overcome the menopause symptoms that threaten to stall their sex lives. We know how to talk about these sensitive issues in an open and respectful manner, so that women can get the information they need about safe and effective treatment options.

What Goes Wrong During Menopause?

Sexuality can be complicated, especially for women. Despite years of intensive study, scientists still aren’t completely sure just how the female orgasm works. However, we do know that hormones play a critical role at all stages of the process, from sparking the initial desire for sex, to building arousal, to achieving orgasm.

During menopause, hormones become unbalanced. It starts with periods stopping, which throws off the normal balance of estrogen and progesterone. This in turn causes the levels of other hormones to fluctuate, affecting systems throughout the body and causing a variety of symptoms. Many menopausal women simply don’t feel the urge to initiate sex due to low sex drive, or perhaps due to self-consciousness about their changing bodies. Even if they do want sex—or if they have a partner who does—intercourse may be painful and unpleasant due to vaginal dryness.

Key Hormones All Women Need for Great Sex

In many cases, restoring healthy desire, arousal, and lubrication is simply a matter of restoring balance to the relevant hormones. The most important hormones to address are:

Estrogen: As the most important female hormone, estrogen is crucial for women’s health. This includes sexual health. Estrogen not only plays a role in heightening sensitivity during sexual activity, it also keeps vaginal tissue healthy. The form of estrogen known as estriol is especially important, since estriol is responsible for stimulating the mucus membranes in the vaginal walls. Without enough estriol, vaginal tissue can become dry and fragile. The vaginal lining thins and secretes less fluid, and pH balance shifts to become more alkaline. At best, this makes sex less enjoyable due to lack of lubrication and elasticity. At worst, it can make sex downright painful. The changes wrought by low estrogen also increase the risk for infections such as UTIs, as well as other urinary problems like leakage.

Progesterone: Progesterone helps support women’s libido. It is also essential for moderating the effects of estrogen. Because estrogen promotes cell growth, the moderation progesterone supplies is important to keep that cell growth in check. Estrogen and progesterone are normally produced in a natural counterbalance during a woman’s monthly cycle, but when menopause disrupts this cycle, progesterone can drop to where it may be too low for women to maintain a normal sex drive.

Testosterone: Though testosterone is typically thought of as a male hormone, women do need a small amount of testosterone for a number of processes in the body. One of these is sex drive. Testosterone plays a huge role in sexual response for women. Without enough testosterone, women simply can’t get “in the mood” no matter how much they may want to. Testosterone also affects lubrication and orgasm for women.

DHEA: DHEA is a precursor hormone that the body uses to create sex hormones, including the specific type of estrogen found in healthy vaginal tissue. Between ages 30 and 80, many women will lose 80 to 90 percent of their ability to produce healthy amounts of DHEA. This can spell disaster for hormone balance and sexual function.

Furthermore, DHEA decline can be exacerbated by stress. Over time, high levels of stress can wear out the adrenal glands that produce DHEA and other important hormones, resulting in fatigue, fuzzy thinking, weight gain, and other issues that further reduce a menopausal woman’s already compromised sex drive.

Oxytocin: Sometimes called “the love hormone,” oxytocin plays a huge role in the non-procreative aspects of sex. At normal levels, oxytocin makes women (and men) want to be touched. Kissing, cuddling, and other skin to skin contact with a partner makes oxytocin levels start to rise, which then triggers the release of the endorphins and testosterone that are needed for sexual arousal. Nerves in the erogenous zones become more sensitive, and continued contact creates even more oxytocin. Women need extremely high levels of oxytocin to reach orgasm. The more oxytocin there is, the better orgasm tends to feel.

Treatment Options

Whether it is low sex drive, vaginal dryness, lack of sensitivity, or poor orgasm that is interfering with your sex life during menopause, you don’t have to accept these challenges as your new normal. Instead, take advantage of one or more of the following treatments that will help restore youthful desire and performance.

Vaginal Estrogen: Applying estrogen directly to dry, inelastic vaginal tissue can improve lubrication and provide relief from painful intercourse, without affecting a woman’s overall hormone balance. While there are many different products that can deliver estrogen for this purpose, a cream or gel containing estriol is generally considered the most effective option.

In one major finding reported at the Annual Meeting of the North American Menopause Society, a very low-dose estriol gel proved highly effective in treating symptoms of postmenopausal vaginal atrophy. Participants received one dose of the estriol gel daily for three weeks and then two doses per week for an additional nine weeks. At the end of 12 weeks of treatment 88 percent of women reported that their symptoms were gone or significantly improved. An examination of these women found physiological changes that showed the effectiveness of treatment.

Several studies have also confirmed that treatment with vaginal estrogen improves menopausal women’s genitourinary health and helps reduce the incidence of urinary tract infections.

Vaginal DHEA: Considering that low estrogen is the biggest contributing factor to vaginal dryness, you might at first assume that replacing estrogen is the only option for treatment. However, treatment with the hormone DHEA can also help.

In a recent study, menopausal women who used a 0.5 percent DHEA vaginal suppository daily for 12 weeks reported improvement in their vaginal tissue and a significant decrease in pain during sex. Upon examination by gynecologists, improvement was apparent. The increase in vaginal secretions among study participants ranged from 86 to 121 percent. The thickness of their vaginal linings, the color of the tissues, and the pH were also improved.

Oxytocin: Just about any woman can benefit from more oxytocin. Treatment can help women who haven’t been able to climax at all hit “the big O,” while also helping improve sensitivity, arousal, and enjoyment along the way. Oxytocin treatment is also advised for women suffering from poor quality orgasms, arousal issues, and low sex drive.

A recent study from the Medical University of Vienna shows that oxytocin treatment can help strengthen women’s relationships as well as their sexual function. Specifically, the researchers found that the male partners of the women who participated in the study showed enhanced sexual response, up to and including improvement in erectile function. The researchers attributed this result to improvement in the couples’ communication regarding their sex life. Oxytocin affects mood and is known to relieve anxiety, so it may help women to be more open with their partners. This particular study is notable in that it shows that while medication or treatment is helpful, social interaction within a relationship can also be quite powerful. Sometimes treatment is needed to help individuals get back to where they feel confident enough to really engage with their partners and reap the benefits of this social interaction.

HRT: Since an array of hormonal imbalances can contribute to sexual dysfunction in menopausal women, often the most comprehensive relief is found by restoring balance to all vital hormones with hormone replacement therapy. A quality HRT program does more than just boost estrogen. It also provides progesterone to moderate the effects of estrogen, testosterone to promote a stronger sex drive, and DHEA to support overall hormone function.

Other hormones that can affect menopausal women’s sex lives in more indirect ways—such as cortisol and thyroid—should also be addressed. For example, overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol can wear out the adrenal glands, and adrenal fatigue is a notorious contributor to low libido in menopausal women. Thyroid imbalances are also common during and after menopause. Having healthy thyroid levels generally helps keep all other hormones working optimally and helps women to feel better overall.

Other Options: There are also a variety of non-hormonal treatments for menopausal women to try. Many of these treatments work by promoting blood flow to the genitals. This primarily improves sensitivity and response, but it can also help improve lubrication and elasticity.

One example of a treatment that improves blood flow to the genitals is Viagra. Research has recently confirmed that “the little blue pill” can also work for women. The study included 202 women who were struggling with vaginal dryness, poor sensitivity, and arousal issues. The women were screened to make sure that their problems were physiological, not emotional. After 12 weeks using Viagra or a placebo, the women who received Viagra reported better overall sexual satisfaction including improvements in arousal, lubrication, and orgasm. Other research has shown that combining a PDE-5 inhibitor like Viagra with testosterone can be even more effective, which suggests that women receiving hormone replacement therapy might see even better results from Viagra.

Why Sex After Menopause Matters

Even though sex after menopause may seem like it comes with its challenges, these challenges are worth conquering. Besides feeling good, sexual activity with a partner delivers many health and wellness benefits. Women who persevere and overcome the menopause symptoms that are keeping them from a happy sex life can expect to enjoy:

Better Sleep: Great sex and great sleep go hand in hand. During sex, numerous endorphins and other hormones are released that help to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The parts of the brain associated with fear, stress, and anxiety are shut down, which sets the stage for relaxing, restful, restorative sleep. Quality sleep is extremely important, not just for feeling rested, but for promoting overall health. Many important biological tasks, such as flushing metabolic waste products from the brain, occur during sleep.

 Younger Appearance: Couples that have more sex tend to look younger, as neuropsychology researchers from Royal Edinburgh Hospital have confirmed. The researchers found that couples who had sex a minimum of three times per week looked an average of 10 years younger than their less sexually active peers. The exact cause for this correlation isn’t certain. It could be that the hormones released during sex are helping to keep these individuals looking younger—for example, perhaps by preventing cortisol from causing premature aging.

Lower Blood Pressure: Numerous studies have shown a link between more sex and lower blood pressure. One recent study is particularly notable because it differentiated between masturbation and sex with a partner, finding that intercourse is best for lowering systolic blood pressure.

Stronger Immune Function: Having an active sex life correlates to having higher levels of certain antibodies that help the body protect itself from attackers like germs and viruses. In one study from Wilkes University, having sex just once or twice per week was enough to deliver an immune boost, as measured in increased amounts of antibodies.

Improved Lubrication: Having more sex helps keep vaginal tissues better lubricated. But this doesn’t mean that women suffering from vaginal dryness should just keep having sex even if it’s painful. Instead, research supports getting initial treatment to relieve the vaginal dryness and associated pain, and then having sex two or three times per week to help keep vaginal tissues stimulated and functioning well.

Stronger Sex Drive: According to some experts, having more sex can improve libido. This means that making a conscious choice to have more sex—even if you don’t necessarily feel the physical desire to do so—can help with efforts to rejuvenate your sex life.

Better Marriage: Having the support and companionship of a spouse is extremely beneficial for health and wellness, particularly as you age. Sex, and other kinds of physical intimacy like kissing and cuddling, helps keep marriages strong, as a recent study from the University of Chicago proves. After surveying 500 couples aged 58 to 85, researchers found that sexually active spouses consistently reported being more satisfied with their relationship, even after up to 40 years of marriage.

Fewer Headaches: Migraines are common during menopause, and many experts now consider them a symptom of menopause in their own right. Sex helps reduce tension and can even cure headaches. In one study from the University of Munster, Germany, 60 percent of migraine sufferers reported that having sex during a headache reduced or stopped their pain.

Reduced Stress: Sex can be a great stress reliever. This is beneficial for overall health because stress can be so damaging. When overproduced, the stress hormone cortisol can cause premature aging throughout the body. Eventually, constant stress can wear out the adrenal glands, causing other complications for overall health.

Renew Youth is Here for You

At Renew Youth, we give women the options they need to conquer all kinds of menopause symptoms safely and effectively. If low sex drive, vaginal dryness, lack of sensitivity, difficulty achieving orgasm, poor body image due to weight gain, irritability, depression, or any other issue related to the changes your body is experiencing at menopause is standing between you and amazing sex, we can help. We offer everything from comprehensive hormone replacement therapy for conquering all menopause symptoms, to topical treatments for rejuvenating vaginal tissue, to oxytocin and other medications specifically designed to improve arousal and orgasm. Contact us today for help creating your personalized treatment plan so you and your partner can reap all the health and wellness benefits of a satisfying, enjoyable sex life.

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