6 Midlife Sex Myths That Sabotage Your Love Life
Getting busy later in life doesn't have to be a snore. Read on to learn how to have a happy and healthy sex life at any age.
By Sandra Gordon
Medically Reviewed by Bhargavi Patham, MD, PhD
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When it comes to sex after 40, one of the biggest misconceptions is that age will sour your sex life. But in reality, “many women in midlife say the quality of sex is better than ever because they know themselves and what pleases them," says Barb DePree, MD, a gynecologist and director of women's midlife services at Holland Hospital in Holland, Michigan. "Plus, they feel an intimacy and connection with their partner that’s unique to an older stage of life."
Read on to discover six more sex myths doctors hear all the time — and the truth about how to have a satisfying sex life at any age or stage.
Myth #1: Menopause Steals Your Sex Drive
The Truth: During perimenopause and menopause, levels of the sex drive-boosting hormones estrogen and testosterone do decrease, so you probably won’t be in the mood as often as you were in your twenties or thirties. But don’t expect your libido to take a complete nosedive; in fact, since sex drive is partly psychological, the opposite may be true. “Some women find that their libido increases when the kids are out of the house, and after menopause when they don’t have to worry about getting pregnant,” says Margery L.S. Gass, MD, a gynocologist and executive director of the North American Menopause Society. If you’ve noticed a big dip lately, talk to your gynecologist since a decrease in sex drive has been linked to a number of serious health problems, from depression to type 2 diabetes.
Myth #2: Men Always Want Sex
The Truth:All men experience some degree of “male menopause” — a combination of aging, decreased circulation, and lower testosterone levels that can affect a man’s sexual desire, arousal, endurance, and emotional health, says Steven Lindheim, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
In addition to normal aging, something else could be affecting him physically or emotionally, such as stress, side effects of certain medications, and health concerns such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Suggest that he see a doctor to rule out medical and emotional issues.
Myth #3: Sex After Menopause Hurts Too Much to Feel Good
The Truth:Some women do experience vaginal atrophy, which can make penetration so painful that you don’t want to have sex, says Alan Altman, MD, a gynecologist in Aspen, Colorado. In fact, as many as 67 percent of postmenopausal women experience vaginal atrophy, according to . Women who don’t have sex regularly are most susceptible to vaginal atrophy because sex boosts blood flow to the vagina to help maintain healthy tissue.
The good news is there's a lot you can do to make intercourse appealing. Over-the-counter lubricants and moisturizers or a prescription estrogen cream can rejuvenate the vagina to make sex feel good again. If these solutions don’t help, ask your doctor if oral hormone therapy is a good option for you.
Myth #4: I'm Not Capable of Having Orgasms
The Truth:While about 25 percent of women report issues having orgasms, fewer than 5 percent are actually physically unable to do so, according to Dr. DePree, so don’t be too quick to count yourself among them. Even if you haven't been able to climax in the past, that doesn’t mean you can’t aim for the big “O” now. Reaching orgasm may be as simple as increasing foreplay.
“Some couples have never really developed the art of foreplay, which is especially important to help women orgasm during sex,” says DePree. Don't be afraid to tell your partner that you need more kissing, breast fondling, and more direct stimulation of the clitoris.
Myth #5: Once You Use a Vibrator, You Can't Orgasm Without It
The Truth:Using a vibrator can help you orgasm more easily, but it won’t keep you from responding during regular (vibrator-free) intercourse, says Carol Queen, PhD, a sexologist and sex educator in San Francisco. So don’t be afraid to use one on your own or with a partner: Not only can using a vibrator spice up sex with your mate, but if you’re between partners, it can also help you enjoy sexual pleasure and maintain a healthy vagina by maintaining circulation to the area. Fortunately with online shopping, vibrators are easier than ever to buy in the privacy of your own home.
Myth #6: Condoms Are for Teenagers
The Truth:Grown-ups need protection, too. And yet adults over age 40 have the lowest rates of condom use, according to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, which documented the condom use of nearly 6,000 people ages 14 to 94. “It’s a generation that grew up before the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” says Michael Reece, PhD, associate dean for the School of Public Health at Indiana University in Bloomington, who helped conduct the survey, which was published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine in October 2010. “They associate condom use with preventing pregnancy, not protecting themselves against STDs." But the number of men and women over age 50 with HIV is on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Condoms have come a long way since you were a teen in terms of texture, shape, and lubricant (both inside and outside the condom). “Spend a little time on condom websites to educate yourself about the latest innovations, and then try a couple different options,” suggets Dr. Reece. Once you’re in a monogamous relationship, you and your partner should both get screened for STDs before ditching protection.
Video: 6 Midlife Sex Myths that Sabotage Your Love
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