I’ve been writing about the use-it-or-lose-it phenomenon and the fact that sexually inactive women are in danger of losing their ability to enjoy a physical relationship after menopause if they take a long break from sex, whether it’s with a partner or from self-stimulation.
Now, I’d like to introduce you to Sue (not her real name), a patient of mine who had a hysterectomy in her 20s, was widowed in her early 40s, and had the good fortune to fall in love again at age 59.
A petite, attractive woman, Sue had no idea how much her genitals suffered from lack of attention for nearly 20 years. During her first office visit, I could barely insert a Q-tip® in her vagina, yet I wanted her to know there was hope for her future if she was willing to do the work needed to “wake up” again sexually.
Sue wrote: It was a very difficult thing to tell my future husband, but he responded with such understanding and compassion. Instead of feeling embarrassment and shame, I was comforted and strengthened by his assuring me that no matter the outcome, it didn't change his feelings for me or his intentions for our relationship. If anything, the whole process has only served to deepen and strengthen it. Being believers, we trusted that just as God had miraculously brought us together, He would see us through to a satisfying and pleasurable sex life.
I prescribed Osphena and vaginal dilators for Sue, then saw her several times as she prepared to consummate her marriage. Her condition didn’t change overnight, so although she and her new husband were physically affectionate as newlyweds, they were unable to actually have intercourse until several months after their wedding.
Sue’s husband Bill (also not his real name) wrote: What did happen during our first 7 months of marriage was truly a miracle… we connected emotionally, physically, spiritually…. I would not trade that time of growth and intimacy for anything. We will have this deep and priceless quality of sexual intimacy the rest of our married lives. It has been the foundation of our love, our joy, our story.
Thankfully, Sue and Bill had the right mix of patience, persistence and prayer to create the passionate relationship they both desired.
Bill added: We now have a fully pleasurable and intimate marriage bed and it’s terrific. Sue is an amazing, wonderful, fabulous lover. But more importantly, she is truly my dearest friend and confidant. I love her with all my heart.
Here’s my advice: If physical symptoms are keeping you from being your sexual self, find a menopause specialist who can help you again enjoy the pleasure and other benefits of sex. Know that it will take time. Be persistent. Have patience. Pray or meditate, remembering that spirituality can help keep you balanced. And keep your sense of humor because, yes, there will be awkward moments.
Will it be worth your time and effort? You bet. In my next blog post I’ll talk about the health benefits of being sexually active.
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.