There are many reasons that women may go months, or even years, without engaging in any kind of sexual activity. She may be without a partner. Or she may be in a relationship where the sizzle has fizzled–her husband or partner is more like a roommate than a lover.
As a side note, I think there’s an epidemic of peri-menopausal and menopausal women who have given up on sex as their bodies change and their priorities shift. Sadly, losing intimacy in a marriage can lead to or exacerbate the distance between two people. I suspect that a number of late-in-life divorces happen because of that loss.
As a friend recently said, “In many relationships, sex is the glue that binds a relationship together.”
I often remind my patients about the use-it-or-lose-it fact of life: If you’re sexually inactive, your body can have some unpleasant surprises for you when you try to be sexual again. Doctors call that losing vaginal patency. (Patent means “open” in the medical world.)
This can happen especially quickly after surgical menopause as your hormone levels decrease, making the tissues of your vagina thinner and more fragile, with less circulation to those tissues. And if your vagina isn’t having any stimulation, those changes will happen more rapidly.
Don’t give up!
Most women can get their “groove” back with the right regimen of vaginal treatments along with patience and persistence.
Last year, I saw a patient (I’ll call her Sue) who had a hysterectomy in her late 20s, then was widowed at a young age and not in any sexual relationships for nearly 20 years. At age 59, a spark was kindled and she fell in love again. I asked Sue if she’d be willing to have us share her story, and am very grateful that she not only agreed, but provided correspondence from her husband as well as herself.
When Sue first came to see me, the situation in her nether region was pretty grim. I could barely insert a Q-tip® into her vagina. Her vaginal moisture was non-existent and while she thought she had entirely lost her sex drive, the new romance had revived it. Yet she knew that if her relationship moved to marriage, she would want to revive her interest in–and ability to have–sex.
If you’re in a situation where you haven’t been “using it” for a long time, I’d encourage you to seek out a gynecologist who has the expertise to help you bring your sexuality back to life for a relationship with a partner or for the health benefits of self-stimulation.
You can read more about Sue’s story in my next blog post, but I’ll give you a sneak preview: It took several months of “work,” with more than a few ups and downs, but Sue and her new husband are now enjoying a pleasurable and intimate marriage bed.
The lesson is this: With the right help, combined with persistence and patience, you can make a come-back and enjoy the benefits of a healthy sex life again.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.