SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Menopause may affect your sexual desire.
- Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) is not a form of contraception.
- Use contraception until at least one year after your natural periods stop.
- If you are under 50 at the time of your last period, use contraception for another two years.
- Condoms provide the best protection from sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
- Talk with your partner about sex and the effects of menopause.
- Seek advice from a professional if you need help with any sexual problem.
What is menopause?
is when your periods stop. This happens when your reproductive hormones (e.g. oestrogen) are lower and there are no eggs left in your ovaries. Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. In Australia, the average age to reach menopause is 51 to 52.
How does menopause affect your sex life?
Physical changes with menopause
A drop in oestrogen levels causes the walls of the vagina to be thinner and drier, which may cause vaginal irritation and pain during sex.
Bladder and pelvic floor changes
Physical changes and lower sexual desire can make it harder to have an orgasm and sexual experiences may feel less pleasurable.
Body image and menopause
You might feel differently about your body around the time of menopause. This may be due to:
- social attitudes – modern society rarely portrays older women as sexual or desirable, which can affect the way women feel about themselves sexually
- weight gain – many around their belly (abdomen) at this stage of life, which may make them feel less sexually attractive.
Other factors can affect your sexual desire at this stage of life. For example:
Other factors may include:
- loss of a partner through death, separation or divorce
- work and financial pressures
- caring for elderly parents.
Managing low sexual desire
Some women become very distressed about their loss of sexual desire. This condition is called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). Treatment with testosterone therapy may help. This therapy should be supervised by your doctor.
Pelvic floor physiotherapy
Sometimes can tighten or lose tone at menopause. This can cause painful sex, aching, or prolapse (i.e. the , or bowel protrudes into the vagina). A pelvic floor physiotherapist can teach you pelvic floor muscle exercises and show you techniques to help reduce pain.
Other practical ideas
There are practical things you can do to help maintain or improve your sex life after menopause. For example, if you have a partner:
- talk to them about your symptoms and how they affect you
- try different ways to be intimate, like spending time together doing things you both enjoy
- consider relationship counselling if needed.
As you age, your fertility declines. But it’s still possible to get pregnant in your late forties or early fifties if you’re still having periods.
If you’re under 50 and don’t want to get pregnant, you should use for at least two years after your final period. If you are 50 or older and don’t want to get pregnant, you should use contraception for at least one year after your final period.
You can talk to your doctor about different contraception options.
Note that MHT is used to manage menopausal symptoms - it is not a contraceptive.
When to see your doctor
Talk to your doctor if menopausal symptoms affect your daily life. For example:
- if symptoms affect your sex life
- if you have urinary or vaginal problems
- if you are distressed about your loss of sex drive
- if you are feeling anxiety, depression or big mood swings.