Hot flashes. They’re the stereotypical symptom of menopause, the subject of T-shirts and mugs: “It’s not a hot flash, it’s a power surge.” But when you say to yourself or your partner, in an intimate moment, “I’m hot,” you want to feel sexy, not soaked.
Unfortunately, among the things that trigger hot flashes is arousal itself. And as uncomfortable as you may be—both physically and emotionally—this is no time to put your sexuality on hold. Remember our “use it or lose it” discussion?
There’s not a lot we can do to disconnect the arousal trigger for hot flashes. What we can do, though, is look at other triggers to make sure we’re not making ourselves overly susceptible.
On that romantic evening, especially, plan your activities to minimize your triggers. Drink cold beverages. Eat a light meal, not excessively spicy. Wear natural fabrics (like cotton) that will breathe and keep you cool. Make sure that the temperature in your bedroom is cool, or position a fan. Use cotton bedding and layers of light blankets that let you adjust. And remind yourself to keep breathing.
It might help reduce your anxiety (remember stress is a trigger!) to have a conversation with your partner about how to stay in the mood with a hot flash.
For a few of us, none of these strategies contains the damage, and hot flashes really interfere with our lives and sexuality. None of these options is perfect for everyone, but hormones, anti-depressants, and blood pressure medications have each had some positive effect. Your care provider can help you balance treatment of hot flashes with your health history and other medical conditions you may have.
And finally, remember that there is sex after hot flashes. Most of us, a year or two after menopause, are completely hot-flash-free. Staying sexually active through this transition keeps us able to continue to enjoy intimacy. Because, you know, we’re still hot!