How To Continue Having Great Sex After Menopause

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How To Continue Having Great Sex After Menopause
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As we lucky ladies reach our middle years, it's as inevitable as death and taxes that we'll experience menopause.

Taken from the Greek words "pausis" (cessation) and the "men" from mensis (month), menopause literally means reaching one's last menstrual period. Hooray! No more cramping and tampons!

On the downside, your body experiences a depletion of estrogen that leads to hot flashes and mood and sleeping problems, not to mention a lack of moistness down below. Due to a toxic mix of bodily and hormonal changes, many women find their sexuality — physically and emotionally — dwindling.

So is there a way to still feel sexy when your body's grappling to adjust to menopause? Absolutely.

Here's how to have great sex even as you go through menopause.

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1. Focus on the brain

Women have always been (and will always be) a cerebral bunch when it comes to sex. This is a cardinal truth from age 17 to 70, but focusing on the emotional side of foreplay has never been so important as in the years during and after menopause. Husbands and boyfriend need to know that it's just going to take their women a little longer to get revved up.

"Desire, for women, is complex, and after menopause, it's even more so," said Dr. Dorree Lynn, author of Sex for Grownups: Dr. Dorree Reveals the Truths, Lies, and Must-Tries for Great Sex After 50. "Women need to feel desired. Sexuality starts in the brain, not in the genitals. Foreplay starts in the morning with an 'I Love You.'"

Dr. Barbra DePree, a gynecologist and creator of MiddlesexMD, thinks once a woman reaches menopause she needs to become more "mindful" of what she needs from sex and not be afraid to ask for it.

"Sex after menopause may take some re-tooling," she said. Due to loss of estrogen and vaginal dryness, "physiologically things aren't going to respond as easily. Women need to view their sexuality in a more broad sense."

As Dr. Lynn said: "You have to be your own investigator. Investigate the murder of your own hormones."

2. Use it or lose it

After menopause, women need to be especially mindful of their lady parts. Sex and masturbation are especially important because — are you listening, ladies? — if you don't use it, you could lose it. Literally.

"If you stop having intercourse or using a vibrator, juices will stop flowing," explained Dr. Lynn. "The vagina tends to atrophy if you don't do something to keep it going."

Sex could become a distant, dim memory rather then a future reality if women don't exercise their nether regions like they do their biceps at the gym.

"After menopause, the vagina narrows and tissues at the entry of the vagina become very fragile," Dr. DePree agreed. "If you don't have sex, use a dildo and moisturizers. Some women may never completely recover from vaginal atrophy."

3. Explore natural solutions

In addition to any kind of hormones you may decide to take, there is a significant amount of natural products out there that may encourage the production of estrogen.

Dr. Lynn suggests stocking up on yams and soy to give your body an extra boost. Some, she said, have a good reaction from acupuncture and black cohosh, which is an herb that's been proven to reduce hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.

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4. Look into hormones if you want

While there have been debates about whether to use synthetic or bioidentical hormones, both doctors agree that some sort of hormonal replacement might be in order.

"Hormones have an important role for some women," Dr. DePree said. "There are lots of reasons to choose to be on hormones: be it for hot flash, sleep, or mood management."

5. Pick new role models

Giving your hormones a boost is only part of the equation. Our society is so youth-centric that women feeling sexy after childbearing years may take some rethinking as to what's sexy in general.

"You aren't ever going to look 20 or 30 again," said Dr. Lynn. "So I always suggest that women pick role models who are their age but still manage to look sexy... you can't just look at People magazine. Those role models aren't realistic."

Of course, it helps to have a partner who reminds you of your sexiness, but for those who are single, don't give up!

"We women are pioneers. We don't have role models for this new kind of sensuality and sexuality," she said.

6. Get to know vaginal lubricants

Your vagina was once a thriving rainforest and now has suddenly morphed into a dry, scorched desert. How to deal? Lubricants!

While most other menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, sleep difficulties, mood problems) will iron themselves out with time, a dry vagina is a problem that most women will need to constantly battle.

While you can most definitely invest in some standard lubes, both doctors sing the praises of estrogen-rich formulas inserted several times a week to trick the vagina into feeling young again.

7. Get moving

Exercise is great for what ails you at any age, and when you reach the menopausal age, being active becomes even more important.

Dr. Lynn credits regular sweat sessions for keeping the "serotonin in the brain moving and the Adrenal glands in check." Dr. DePree sings the praises of working on your "pelvic tone."

"Lifting weights, Pilates, yoga, anything that engages your core and maintains specific pelvic muscles." She suggested kegel exercises (contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor). When you lose tone, she says, you also lose sensation during sex.

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Melissa Noble is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to YourTango.

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