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You Never Know: Staying Ready for Sex

by Dr. Barb DePree MD

I had a call the other day from a friend who’s been a widow for several years. “I’ve found someone!” she told me, with just the slightest quiver in her voice. “I’m so excited I can hardly concentrate at work.”

Of course I was happy for her -- and happy that she called to set up an appointment with me for an exam in anticipation of resuming her sexual life. “I think everything’s going to be okay,” she said, “but I think I might want to come in and see you first so you can tell me for sure.”

She did come in to see me and I was glad to be able to reassure her that, from a physical perspective, she was good to go. If I am able to place two fingertips in a patient’s vagina without causing pain or discomfort, it’s a good bet that she’s going to be able to have intercourse comfortably.

But more than a few post-menopausal patients who come to my office have been astonished to discover that they can’t pass the two-finger test. Their vaginal walls have narrowed and thinned over a period of time without regular intercourse, and I have to tell them it’s going to take some work to get back into a condition where penetration will even be possible, let alone comfortable.

I run into this fairly frequently with women who are widowed and divorced at our stage of life. They are grieving or angry -- or both -- and, without thinking too much about it, decide that their sexual days are behind them. Don’t need to worry about that anymore! But, as my ecstatic friend can attest: You never know. Surprises happen, and when they do, it sure would nice to know that your body’s ready and able to experience the pleasures of intercourse.

It’s one of my biggest concerns for single women our age. If you’re 30 when you divorce and 40 when you want to take it up again, there’s been no lost ground. But if you’re 50 and decide to resume sex at 60, it’s a very different story. You find yourself in a new relationship, you’re ready to be intimate, but your vaginal “architecture” has changed. It can be a very unhappy surprise.

Physical therapy with vaginal dilators can help to restore capacity for intercourse, but it’s much simpler -- and more pleasant! -- if you don’t lose that capacity in the first place. For all my patients and friends who are currently without partners, I recommend a “vaginal maintenance plan” that will help them keep their genitals healthy and ready for love: moisturize regularly; use a good lubricant; and experiment with a personal vibrator or dilator to preserve your capacity for penetration.

Because you never know.


  • From the article: “But if you’re 50 and decide to resume sex at 60, it’s a very different story. You find yourself in a new relationship, you’re ready to be intimate, but your vaginal “architecture” has changed. It can be a very unhappy surprise.”

    Of course you don’t have to be single or divorced for this to be an issue, given all the marriages that turn sexless as women enter menopause. Just resuming sex in the old relationship is no different.

    Gary on

  • Mag,
    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I really do appreciate hearing from you, and that you were able to regain comfort and function of the vagina again! You will inspire other women to pursue the effort to enjoy intimacy again.

    barbdepree on

  • I just had to comment on this blog post. I am 54, my husband is 65. We just experienced a more than 2 year period where we did not have sex. The only attempts we made were so painful for me that it was not even worth the effort. We both desired to renew our intimacy and I just knew there had to be an answer! I found this website & purchased a vaginal moisturizer (yes!) and a set of dilators. I have been faithful to insert them & regularly moisturize for the past month or so and this weekend we had intercourse with NO PAIN for the 1st time in several years. I was just amazed! It may seem a little odd, but it does work & as I worked through the dilators I could tell the difference. We are both excited & have made a commitment to each other to regularly enjoy intimacy – and enjoy is the right word, one I thought I might never be able to say again.


    Mag on

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