- As women age, they tend to have less sex.
- Psychosocial factors are involved in this decrease in libido.
Menopause is a major stage in a woman’s life, a period of hormonal upheaval. Accompanied by more or less bothersome side effects such as hot flashes, sleep disturbances or vaginal dryness, it also generally corresponds to a time when sexual intercourse decreases.
In 2015, a study published in the journal Endocrinology & Metabolism Clinics of North America concluded that “sexual dysfunction increases with age and is very common in postmenopausal women”. Other research has shown that 42% of premenopausal women suffer from symptoms of sexual dysfunction. Eight years later, their number had risen to 88%.
What are the causes of this decline in sexual satisfaction? Studies have highlighted physiological factors associated with the onset of menopause: vaginal dryness and reduced estrogen levels can make sexual intercourse more difficult or less satisfying. However, these are not the only reasons that have a significant impact on a woman’s libido or sex life: psychosocial changes must also be taken into account.
A weakened self-confidence
It is these psychosocial factors that motivated a study published in Menopause. Research from the University of Sussex in Brighton and University College London, UK and the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia shows that the sex lives of many women declines with age and is associated with certain issues neglected by scientists: those related to body image, self-confidence and perceived desirability, stress, mood swings and relationship difficulties .
To carry out their work, the researchers relied on data from 4,418 women, aged 64 on average, who took part in the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS). About half of the women reported being sexually active at the start of the study, but declines in all aspects of sexual activity were seen over time. For example, they reported that their sexual activity was less frequent, less enjoyable and more uncomfortable. The main cause of sexual inactivity remains the absence of a partner, most often due to widowhood.
The other factors often mentioned to explain the decrease in the frequency of sexual intercourse, are (in order of importance): partner’s medical condition, sexual dysfunction, woman’s physical health problems, menopausal symptoms, and prescription medications. As for low libido, many women report that it is often due to difficulties in romantic relationships, in the logistics of organizing physical relationships, and to the consequences of aging on their image and self-confidence. self.
Only 3% of participants described positive sexual experiences, and just 6% sought medical help for sexual problems.
For the authors, the findings “will have implications for clinical practice”, particularly in the management of women reporting sexual dissatisfaction at menopause. According to them, in the medical setting, “sexual difficulties are often under-reported, under-recognized and under-treated”.
They also call on practitioners to discuss these aspects with postmenopausal patients in order to better support their return to sexuality. “Open communication about sexuality, including wants, needs, and dysfunctions, is essential and will reduce barriers for women to discuss sexual function. Additional training on this topic [pour les praticiens de la santé] is essential to facilitate this process,” the researchers concluded.