Menopause and avoiding intimacy

Postmenopausal Australian women avoid intimacy as a result of a common condition.

Menopause and avoiding intimacy
Image credit: Shutterstock

A new study has shown that more than 70 per cent of postmenopausal Australian women have avoided intimacy with their partners as a result of a common condition caused by menopause.

The study, Clarifying Vaginal Atrophy’s Impact on Sex and Relationships (CLOSER), includes 1005 participants. Approximately half are postmenopausal women with symptoms, and the other half are male partners of postmenopausal women with symptoms. The study highlights the physical and emotional effect vaginal discomfort can have on Australian couples.

Vaginal discomfort, also known as vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women, can be diagnosed by a healthcare professional. It is a relatively common condition in both menopausal and postmenopausal women. It is caused by changes in the levels of female hormones in the body. It can also occur as a result of surgery to remove ovaries and after treatments for some medical conditions.

Symptoms of vaginal atrophy include vaginal dryness, itching and painful intercourse. If left untreated it can lead to serious long-term medical problems, including incontinence. Dr Jane Elliot, immediate-past president of the Australasian Menopause Society, explained that there is a lot of stigma surrounding vaginal atrophy. “Unfortunately, vaginal atrophy is considered a taboo subject, and even doctors can find it difficult to talk to their patients about it,” said Dr Elliott.

The CLOSER survey showed that 56 per cent of Australian postmenopausal women admit to having sex less often as a result of vaginal discomfort. Many women also reported that the condition affected their self-esteem and wellbeing. Almost half worried that their long-term vaginal discomfort would never go away and would, as a result, impact negatively on their relationship. 59 per cent revealed that the condition makes them feel ‘old’, and 58 per cent were upset that their body does not work the way it used to.

Partners of postmenopausal women said that they empathise with their partners, and two thirds revealed that they were comfortable discussing vaginal discomfort with their partner.

If you think you or your partner may be experiencing vaginal discomfort or dryness, it is important to seek advice from your healthcare professional.

For more information on menopause, post-menopause and vaginal dryness, visit the Australasian Menopause Society’s website

Do you think this is a topic we should be talking about? Or is it best dealt with in private?


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    15th Nov 2013
    Anything to do with our Health is worth discussing openly, especially if affects so many.
    If this can cause other serious problems down the track then YES discuss away!
    Also can I ask 'what about men' I firmly believe that they too go through menopause (is that why it's call MENopause!) and my husband has lost his sex drive since turning 60 - any help in this area?
    15th Nov 2013
    Never heard before that vaginal atrophy can lead to other serious problems including
    incontinence. That sounds scary. Can someone tell us more, please.
    15th Nov 2013
    Whats wrong with a bit of lubrication for vaginal drieness, there are plenty of things available. I think Troubadour a lot of the problem with men losing their sex drive is because of a drop in their testosterone levels. Why they don't give older men testosterone supplements beats me. It can also be the cause of "grumpy old man" syndrome too.
    Get him some zinc tablets & look up things to give him that will increase his testosterone level.
    15th Nov 2013
    Sadly, it does seem that Menopause can lead to little or no sexual desire from (mostly) females. In my own case my wife, who always really enjoyed intimacy when she wanted to have sex--which was not very often--has now almost no desire for any intimacy, but when we have had sex she still enjoys it! Lack of "internal" lubrication is seemingly the biggest problem, so we always use lots of lubricant, but sadly, the times for sexual relations are now few & very far between! We have discussed her discomfort, but even though we do use lubricant, she is never a really willing partner, even though when we do "partake", she enjoys it immensely! My sexual drive has not diminished (I am over 65), so I have to resort to masturbation regularly.
    15th Nov 2013
    It would be better if you didn't have testosterone supplements to boost that hormone, since it can possibly predispose to BPH and possibly cancer. That is why men over 65 will rarely get prostatic cancer due to the extremely low level of testosterone, which declines naturally as you get older, being at its peak at 30 years old.
    15th Nov 2013
    This inexpensive little self help guide may be a one stop reference for resolving what I call our female 'ouch' problems! Like the title, it's lighthearted language and silly cartoons addresses real and stressful issues we all have but don't like to talk about,even to our doctors. It's packed with solutions that you can use in the privacy of your own home.

    It's called "Happy Vaginas for the Over 40s- how to resuscitate your ageing asset and protect her from menopausal meltdown!"

    Common female problems are simply explained, one per page, without 'medicalese' and many of the suggested remedies are simple/non prescription.
    Intimacy takes many forms, a sense of humour and lots of laughter can be just the ticket to many years of warmth and joy so turn to the page "Sexy Strains for Silly Seniors", some warming gel, a dish of your favourite delish and don't let a few 'adjustments' put you off!

    15th Nov 2013
    So that's why men have mistresses! Ouch!
    Seriously, baby oil is a wonderful lubricant, and in my opinion much better than lubricants designed for that purpose. The ones I tried seemed to 'dry up', and caused more problems, which meant reapplying more often, (though this would depend on how long it was needed of course), and depending on usage, could get a bit expensive for a pensioner. On the other hand, like Brylcream "A little dab 'll do ya' with the oil.
    15th Nov 2013
    Disclaimer:- this was actually posted by Pearls of Wisdom, but for some reason has come up under my name...... I was not here.. I did not say this.
    15th Nov 2013
    Hi, Grappler (good nickname for this topic!) baby oil may be fine for long term partners but for some singles still hoping for a new relationship, it causes deterioration in condoms so does not protect against STIs and less face it, these diseases do not discriminate. Oil carries bacteria too, which can cause urinary tract infections and thrush. Re dryness, a tip from that little book- put a tspn. of coconut oil into a patty case and freeze. Prior to 'funtime;, break the resulting disc of oil in half and pop in where its needed and forget about it , well until you need to use the other half!
    16th Nov 2013
    Thanks for the informative article! Never knew there was a name for the condition! Certain medications/certain variations can also cause loss of libido in people. Just when there is no need to wait until the ankle biters are asleep, other conditions rear their heads to try and prevent a "happy time"!!!!!
    16th Nov 2013
    It is sad, sometimes to see this condition. As a male, of 70, I think that I am qualified to comment. I really think that the MALE is sometimes the cause of this condition. ( Now don't go off, you blokes). If you can talk about it with your partner. OK. BUT. I think it can stem from previous experiences. If you are a gentle lover, with plenty of patience, all of your life, with your wife, I think that helps. She thinks that she is going to be GORILLAORISED once again and closes up, in defence. Be gentle and loving, blokes.
    17th Nov 2013
    In the past I found, if a Lady had problems with dryness, she was to inserts an Evening Primrose capsule into her vagina 20 minutes or so before commencement of sexual activities, it feels very much like her own natural secretions. Her body heat and moisture breaks down the capsule releasing the Evening Primrose Oil. Try may like it. And gents- Ladies do like foreplay, even to the point of having an orgasm before you commence penetration, it may improve frequency and enjoyment for you both. Are you in the mood hardly qualifies as foreplay......
    18th Nov 2013
    I wish. After hysterectomy and going through menopause, empty nest syndrome. I yearned for more and he had lost it! I was about 52, he 62. It was my fault - so he said! I had no probs (lubrication etc)Then the marriage started to disintergrate (due to being frauded in a business years before) He had difficulty in obtaining work and lose the plot and didn't even try to get work. Years later he met another(She put him on Viagra! I suggested it but NO he said) Well enough said almost. We divorced after 35 years marriage. They went to live another town- She had professional work and was very rich before) They married, 5 years later, she died from heart attack (maybe too much of a good thing)Well, I sort of hoped for reconciliation but no, He and her had many overseas trips etc and he did not have to find work!Bliss! And saved by a rescuer and replacement me! Now, my family have told me he has a girlfriend and they have already had couple overseas trips. Bless him!Maybe he just needed a complete new change (or 2) I maintain my sense of humour. And I remain alone.I hope I have given you a laugh for today.It is all true!!!
    19th Nov 2013
    GP put me on Vagifem twice a week very early in the menopause . Any more often and it is classified as HRT. No probs. Incontinence cured. Unfortunately hub goes for prostate op on Thursday. We have a tough road ahead but are determined to do our utmost to resume normal relations as soon as possible. Can't believe the number of folk, male and female, who dismiss the side effect of this op of erectile disfunction as not important. Perhaps we have been most fortunate in enjoying intimacy when pushing 70.

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