Menopause marks a time of many changes for women, including an end to periods and the beginning of what can be troublesome side effects.
Hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and weight gain are all possible symptoms that women may face during this natural transition. What about your sex life? Is it possible to have an orgasm after menopause?
Can A Woman Have An Orgasm After Menopause?
You’re considered to be in menopause after you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual period; the average age for women in the United States is 51 years old. It’s a natural biological process, with emotional and physical side effects.1
It does not have to mark the end of your sex life. The idea that you can no longer get a period or get pregnant may be positive for many women. Most women at menopausal age don’t have children at home, so there’s no danger of getting “caught in the act.”
There is a myth that you can’t have an orgasm after menopause but it’s just that—a myth. However, it may be more difficult to have an orgasm.
The Physical Changes of Menopause
The big drop in estrogen levels that happens during menopause is what causes most of the symptoms, including those that can impact your sex life.
Here are a few side effects that may have an effect on your ability to enjoy intercourse and reach orgasm:
- The drop in estrogen may lower your desire, making it more difficult to become sexually aroused.2
- Your vaginal canal may be less stretchy, making sex more painful.2
- You may experience vaginal dryness, which may also cause intercourse to be painful.2
- Your vagina may become shorter and narrower.3
A condition known as “vulvovaginal atrophy” affects some women—less estrogen causes the tissues of the vulva and the lining of the vagina to become thinner, drier, and less elastic or flexible. Vaginal secretions are reduced, resulting in decreased lubrication.3
Those dry, fragile vulvovaginal tissues are susceptible to injury, tearing, and bleeding during intercourse or any penetration of the vagina. The resulting discomfort can be so great that some women avoid intercourse all together.3
Other women suffer from atrophic vaginitis, an inflammation of the vagina that can include redness of the vagina and vaginal discharge.3
Another factor is reduced blood supply to the clitoris and lower vagina, and the clitoris is likely to be less sensitive than in earlier years.4
Finally, some women experience health problems such as chronic illness and injuries, physical pain, lowered body image, anxiety and depression, which can also impact sex drive.2
Taken together, you may see a reduction in sensations and pleasure, which can affect your ability to have an orgasm. Or, your orgasms may be less intense and take longer to achieve.4
Here’s what you need to know about menopause and sex:
- More than a third of women in perimenopause, or who are postmenopausal, report having sexual difficulties, from lack of interest in sex to trouble having an orgasm.2
- Orgasm problems are more common in women over the age of 45.4
- One United States survey about sexual behavior found that 23% of women aged 57 to 85 said they did not find sex pleasurable.4
- Another large survey found that about 5% of women in the United States have a problem achieving orgasm that causes them concern.4
- Still another survey found that sexual activity drops with age—fewer than half of women aged 57 to 73 said they were sexually active, and those who were had sex less than twice a month, on average.5
You Can Still Have an Orgasm
Despite the physical changes and lower sex drive, you’re not alone, and all is not lost! Once you understand the changes, you can take steps to make intimacy and sex pleasurable again. Think of it from this perspective: Nature didn’t intend for women to be sexually active after menopause, so we might have to work at it and be creative. That includes exploring any emotional, physical, and medical factors that are impacting your sexual response, and taking advantage of a wide variety of therapies to address them.5
Be honest with your partner, and explore new ways to be intimate. Try new positions for sex, or other ways to physically enjoy each other besides intercourse.2 Ask your doctor if there are medications that may be further lowering your libido, such as some drugs for high blood pressure.5 Taking steps to deal with pain, or helping with lubrication, may also increase your desire and enjoyment of sex.
With some education, patience and creativity—and possible medical support—a woman can have an orgasm after menopause.
See A Doctor
If you’re bothered by symptoms of menopause, including lowered libido or painful intercourse, ask your doctor for advice and possible treatment to make sex enjoyable again. Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health, to support your physical and emotional needs in menopause.