More on Sex in the Golden Years. Part 1

Last week, we discussed how a woman’s sexual needs and desires may continue throughout her lifetime and that for many, sexual activity may even improve after menopause. Fears of pregnancy no longer exist and time and work pressures may be relieved. However, there are some physiological changes that do occur with aging, which may affect sexual function.

As estrogen levels decrease after menopause, our bodies change. There is less vaginal lubrication produced, even when one is sexually excited. The vaginal wall itself thins and loses some of its elasticity and can become atrophic. These changes may cause a woman’s vagina to become narrower after menopause.

I once heard someone say, “Use it or lose it” regarding normal vaginal capacity. This is a somewhat crude comment, but does get a point across. If our vagina is no longer stretched by intercourse, post-menopausal atrophic changes may cause it to become narrower. That is why women who are no longer sexually active may experience much discomfort when a speculum is placed into a vagina for a Pap smear, for example.

The good news is that even if one is not sexually active for a while and the vagina has narrowed, it can stretch out again, in time, to accommodate intercourse in the future. However, lubrication, patience and gentleness are very important, as always.

Although I still have interest in sex, the time it takes me to achieve arousal and climax seems to be taking longer than when I was younger. Why?

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