Some women fear their lady parts will shrivel up like a prune during menopause. While the vagina does go through some changes during this time due to loss of estrogen, most of the changes are undetectable to the naked eye. In fact, many women don’t notice any changes at all.
As estrogen levels fall during menopause, the vagina loses some of its elasticity. Estrogen is responsible for the plumpness of the lining of the vagina, for the elasticity of the tissues round the vagina and for the production of the moisture from the cervix.
- Improved My Health
- Changed My Life
- Saved My Life1
The skin around the vagina and vulva can also become thinner and feel dryer. The vagina often loses its ability to produce as much lubrication during sexual arousal. These changes can lead to painful or uncomfortable intercourse. It is not surprising that about 40 percent of women in menopause report pain during sexual intercourse.
This happens because the Bartholin’s glands are less efficient then they once were. Those are the two glands located slightly below and to the left and right of the opening of the vagina. They secrete mucus to lubricate the vagina.
During menopause, it takes longer for the Bartholin’s glands to produce the lubricant needed for intercourse. Sex research pioneers Masters and Johnson reported younger women may become sufficiently aroused for penetrative sex in as short a time as a few seconds, but menopausal women may take five minutes or longer.
Since blood flow to the vagina lessens after menopause, the vagina is in a “use it or lose it” place. That’s right. The act of having intercourse stimulates blood flow to the vagina and keeps it healthy. So the more you do it, the better it feels.
For more comfortable sex, during and after menopause, consider over-the-counter water-based sexual lubricants or moisturizers for the vaginal area. They can make sex less painful. Today’s modern, sensual, water-based lubricants can actually enhance sex in addition to making it more comfortable.
And don’t forget about lots of foreplay. Taking time during sex is particularly important for older women. This allows the Bartholin’s glands to produce the maximum amount of lubrication before penetration.
You can also talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of using prescription hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to increase vaginal lubrication and thicken the vaginal lining. Vaginal estrogen creams can also be prescribed by your doctor if you prefer not to take HRT.
Stacy Lloyd is a writer and video producer. A former television news journalist, she covered stories around the world. Currently, she produces corporate and non-profit videos and broadcast programming.