As we age, our body changes, and our sex life changes with it. But just because it’s different doesn’t mean it has to be bad. Tryon Medical Partners’ gynecology team provides some guidance on what we can expect may change in the bedroom and how we can keep sexual activity comfortable and enjoyable at any age.
What changes can I expect to my sex life?
Common physical conditions like joint pain, fatigue and urinary issues can impact the way we experience sexual activity as we age. The stress and pressure of daily life may also influence libido. For women, symptoms of menopause – including hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness due to a lack of estrogen – can also impact how they feel during sexual activity. Treatments for chronic conditions like high blood pressure and depression may impact libido or cause erectile dysfunction.
Psychological changes accompany these physical ones. People often experience discomfort around their partner during physical intimacy because they feel something is wrong with their body or because sex doesn’t feel the same as it used to. They may also fear sex could make an existing condition, such as joint pain or urinary issues, even worse.
“Patients will say ‘grandmas don’t have sex’ or ‘we don’t do that anymore’,” Dr. Morris says. “These kinds of ideas can also contribute to feelings of confusion or shame around continued sexual activity as we age.”
How can I adjust to these changes?
The gynecology team at Tryon shares several ways sexual experience can be improved as we age, if and when people experience difficulties:
- Try out new products. There are plenty of products out there to facilitate continued sexual activity as we age, including special pillows for those with joint pain and vaginal moisturizers for folks with dryness. Dr. Morris also encourages exploring different kinds of lubricant and adds, “There is a difference between oil and water-based lubricants. For those who are going, or have gone, through menopause, silicone and oil-based lubricants feel much more normal and make a big difference.”
- Look into additional support. Pelvic floor physical therapy treats pain, weakness and dysfunction in the pelvic floor muscles and can alleviate many issues in the bedroom. Similarly, hormone replacement therapy can help to replace the estrogen that your body stops making during menopause to treat vaginal discomfort.
- Reevaluate what intimacy looks like. As age-related changes occur, it’s important to discuss with our partners how and why intimacy may change. As women get older, they often value togetherness and intimacy more than sexual activity. Dr. Stone encourages these conversations between partners and shares, “It’s all about what you and your partner value most. Talk about what’s important to you – it may not be penetrative sex at all. It’s difficult to have a satisfactory sex life without that conversation.”
When should I talk with my doctor?
Regardless of what changes you experience in your sex life as you age, it’s important to have a continued dialogue with your healthcare provider.
“Just because you don’t need to see your gynecologist for a pap smear anymore doesn’t mean you should stop seeing your gynecologist,” Dr. Hauscha notes. “We still recommend you come in on a yearly basis.”
It’s more than just scheduling and attending an annual appointment – it’s important to make sure you’re comfortable with your provider so the door is open to important conversations about your health and sexual wellness.
“If your doctor isn’t comfortable talking about the physical act of sex, how it is working and changing, then find a different provider,” Dr. Morris emphasizes. “I hear from patients all the time that they’ve seen doctors uncomfortable talking about sex. If they tell you to ‘just relax’ when you share a health concern, then run the other way.”
Ready for a discussion with your provider about sexual wellness? Reach out to Tryon today to begin the conversation.