MENOPAUSE AND GOOD SEXUAL HEALTH COUNSELLING
Menopause is not directly linked to sexual addiction, however approaching menopause can cause considerable confusion in female and male sex addicts, and non-addicts, when mistakenly acquainting menopause with cessation of active female sex-life. Rather than flagging menopause as a threat it can be seen as a sexually most liberating time, as most women will retain their sex drive and sexual function throughout their entire life cycle.
The word menopause literally means the end of the (female) monthly cycle. The Greek word ‘pausis’ means ‘cessation’, and the word ‘men’ from ‘mensis’ means ‘month’. Menopause occurs commonly in midlife, in western culture typically between 40 to 60 years of age, with a means of 51 years of a woman’s age. In some cases of specific gynaecological illness, menopause may be surgically induced at any adult age, following medication or hysterectomy.
Menopause is the permanent cessation of ovarian function, and indicates the termination of a woman’s childbearing cycle only. Her sex drive and sexual desire, her sexual pleasure and orgasmic ability are independent from her hormonally based menopausal changes, and can be maintained well after menopause. Menopause transition is a natural and healthy life change. The transition itself may be challenging for some women, while others experience little discomfort. Contemporary women in western culture live long enough to almost spend half their adult life in post menopause (completed menopause), while staying sexually active and energetic.
MENOPAUSE NEW SEXUAL FREEDOM
Equipped with good menopause medicine and sex education, women can embrace menopause as a new area of their sexuality, marked by freedom from periods, contraceptives, unplanned pregnancies, abortions, and child rearing. Today’s women in menopause can express themselves sexually freely and fully. In fact, sex may be more fulfilling than prior to menopause.
To keep physical well-being and sexual function in top shape, women in menopause may benefit from supporting nutritional advise, engage in regular exercise, regular pelvic floor workouts, regular masturbation, continuation with intercourse, generous use of lubricants, using medical dilators and safe sex toys, and applying topical vaginal prescription or herbal creams to prevent vaginal dryness, while encouraging increased blood-flow into the female erectile tissue (clitoris and clitoris shafts).
The peri-menopausal period denotes a natural process of transition into completed menopause. During this time, the ovarian production of oestrogen and progesterone becomes more irregular.
Fertility declines but does not cease totally. Periods become increasingly irregular and may fluctuate from spotting to light or abnormally heavy flows. Hormonal cycles can be as short as two weeks, or may stop for several month.
Signs of peri-menopause may begin as early as 35 years of age, although most women become aware of first changes in their mid-to-late 40s, or early 50s.
The most common symptoms of peri-menopause are hot flushes. Hot flushes are caused by a sudden increase in body temperature, soaring up multiple degrees. This temperature differential may leave the woman weak and breaking out in heavy sweating as the body attempts to cool down. Despite this stark discomfort, hot flushes are not considered a disease but the body’s natural regulation of sudden temperature differentials caused by a significant fluctuation of hormones.
Pharmaceutical HRT and natural hormone replacement therapies my ease the discomforts. Some women may also develop depression and may benefit from SSRI medications or herbal remedies. In any case, a GP must be consulted when considering treatments.
Common symptoms of peri-menopause include
- Hot flashes, Cold flashes
- Rapid heartbeat
- Increased risk of atherosclerosis
Urogenital Atrophy/Vaginal Atrophy
- Thinning of the membranes of the vulva, the vagina, the cervix, outer urinary tract
- Considerable shrinking and loss of elasticity of all outer and inner genital areas
- Watery discharge
- Urinary frequency, urgency, possible urinary incontinence
- Increased susceptibility to infection, inflammation, vaginal candidiasis, and urinary tract infections
- Back pain
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Osteopenia, and increased risk to developing osteoporosis
Skin, Soft Tissue
- Breast atrophy, Breast tenderness +/- swelling
- Decreased elasticity of the skin
- Increased dryness and thinning of the skin
- Formication – itching, tingling, burning, pins and needles, and sensations of ants crawling under skin
- Increased anxiety/depression
- Fatigue, loss of energy
- Problems with concentration and temporary memory loss
- Mood disturbance, irritability
- Sleep disturbances, insomnia
- Painful intercourse, dyspareunia
- Vaginal dryness, vaginal atrophy
- Decreased libido
- Problems reaching orgasm
Post-menopause describes a time in a woman’s life after her ovaries have become inactive.
A woman, who still has her uterus, is considered postmenopausal after a full 12 month after her last menstrual flow, including spotting. A woman’s reproductive hormone levels continue to drop and fluctuate for some time into post menopause.
Any period-like flow or spotting occurring in post menopause must be reported to a medical doctor and the possibility of endometrial cancer must be considered.
Initially, menopause may cause physical strain, emotional distress, and relationship upheaval. Treatment and sexual counselling from a trained sex therapist is recommended, while consulting a GP or Gynaecologist can ease physical discomfort.
Vaginal Atrophy (also Atrophic Vaginitis) is the thinning and sometimes inflammation of the vaginal walls, caused by a decline in oestrogen.
Vaginal atrophy most commonly occurs after menopause, but can also develop during breast-feeding, or at any other time when the production of oestrogen falls low.
Many women, who have developed vaginal atrophy are likely to experiencing painful intercourse and a subsequent lowering of sexual interest. More over, healthy genital function is closely intertwined with healthy urinary system function.
NEW help is on hand! A new medical laser treatment, called Mona Lisa Touch, is now available to help strengthening and rejuvenating internal vaginal lining. Also, low levels of oestrogen can be medically corrected. See your doctor for advise.
CONFIDENTIAL SEXUAL HEALTH COUNSELLING
Sex Therapist and Professional Counsellor Heide McConkey can help. Please call our Sydney office during business hours (+61) 2 9380 4486 for booking a confidential appointment, or obtain professional advise.