There are many reasons why, quite frankly, our flames of passion seem more like hormonally-depleted cinders. Embarrassment, or as PositivePause women have told us, shame, means we usually don’t discuss what’s happening with our partner. Talk now to prevent misunderstandings and relationship problems further down the line. “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling!” lamented the Righteous Brothers. Well yes, we have!
Levels of oestrogen, progesterone, androgens and testosterone surge and drop in menopause affecting sexual desire and how we follow up on it. Plus physical symptoms including hot flushes, irregular or heavy periods, fatigue, breast pain and vaginal dryness aren’t exactly going to make you feel foxy. Vaginal dryness is one of the first indicators of perimenopause and added to psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression, the feeling that your delicate bits are lined with sandpaper probably puts a tin hat on your libido.
And the good news is…. Your sex life shouldn’t wither with age. Once your body has adjusted to its hormone levels your sexual desire should return. And think about the positive benefits of the menopause, no more periods or contraception worries.
The best ways to boost your libido in menopause Diet, lifestyle and overcoming your embarrassment to talk about what’s happening, and ask for help if your symptoms are severe, are all important.
What to eat to help with loss of libido
Foods to fuel your passion
Hot Flush believe in the power of food to help you along this bumpy menopausal road.
Phytoestrogenic plant compounds that mimic the effect of oestrogen may help. Eat more: Linseed, edamame beans, tofu, tempeh and soy milk contain
Zinc-rich oysters, kidney beans, lean red meat and liver. Zinc plays a part in producing sex drive boosting testosterone.
Magnesium - Kale, rocket, Swiss chard, almonds and seeds are good sources of magnesium, which works alongside zinc to increase sex drive.
Protein and amino acids Eat more: oily fish, eggs, nuts, dairy products, beetroot and bananas. Are natural dopamine-boosting foods to help lift levels in your brain, treat your flagging libido and help increase blood flow to your sexual organs. Find it in our old favourite SMASH - salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and halibut. Snack on pumpkin, chia and sesame seeds, walnuts and, well, just about all nuts.
Chillies help release feel good endorphins, speed up your metabolism and increase blood flow to the parts that matter!
Dark chocolate (over 70% cocoa) may help increase levels of the pleasure chemical dopamine in the brain, lifting your mood, helping you to relax and improving your body’s reaction to stimulation.
Pomegranate: linked with the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, it may lower cortisol levels and increase testosterone. Sprinkle seeds onto cereal, salads, mix with a fruit salad or drink juice daily.
Saffron: Savvy, wealthy Romans sprinkled saffron on their marriage beds as it contains picrocrocin, a chemical that helps your body become more sensitive to touch.
What to avoid to help with loss of libido
Fizzy drinks Avoid fizzy drinks, including diet options. Full of artificial sweeteners, which affects serotonin levels, a hormone that is essential in maintaining your well-being and happiness. Low serotonin levels may be associated with low libido.
Alcohol That cheeky cocktail or glass of wine might get you in the mood, but when you drink too much your libido suffers. Alcohol is a depressant, reduce your drinking and your sparkle may return. Drinking a 2 to 1 ratio of water to alcohol is the new way ahead if you are out on a social.
Lifestyle & wellbeing to help with loss of libido
Time to talk When it comes to intimacy with your partner do you talk about a) everything, no holds barred, b) most things, or c) nothing?
If your answer was a) then it seems you’re in the minority. If you’re in the b) or c) camp, then it might be time to tell it like it is. Whatever is happening in your own corner of menopause mayhem, share it with your partner, so that they know the reason for your lack of interest in sex. It’s likely to be a consequence of a number of physical, emotional and hormonal changes. Not easy on your relationship, so communication and spending time with your partner are key to keeping things on track and staying connected and close. Women's Health Physiotherapist Christien Bird spoke with Hot Flush on the importance of talking about your sexual problems, whether you are suffering painful sex or low mood, one of the best forms of therapy is talking about it.
Deal with libido-lowering stress by exercising Stress has a negative impact on libido, identify your stress trigger and find your own stress buster. Try Pilates or Yoga as calming, stretching exercises are good for relaxation, release endorphins and will improve your overall muscle tone.
Sleep Sleep is probably not what you have in mind when it comes to sex. However, a good night’s sleep is essential to a healthy libido and a healthy body. So if your love life is a priority, make sleep a priority too.
Strengthen your pelvic floor The simplest way to engage with your pelvic floor we were advised by physiotherapist Christien Bird from the White Hart Clinic, is to clench your bum hole! (anus), as if you are trying to hold in a fart and hold it for 10 seconds.
Yes, if your Vaginal muscles and pelvic floor can do with a lift right now, you need to start practicing Kegel exercises, repeated squeezing of your pelvic muscles. Try the following:
Lie on your back or sit on a chair and quickly relax and contract your pelvic muscles 10 times, taking 10 seconds. You should continue breathing normally whilst doing this, and not suck in your tummy.
Repeat the set of 10 taking slower contractions and holding each contraction for a count of 5, the whole set taking about 50 seconds.
Do this three to four times a day.
Squeezy reminder Download the NHS Squeezy app. Designed to remind women to do their pelvic floor exercises. It's free, there's now no excuses to forget!
Soapy soreness Scented soaps and shower gels can be astringent. If vaginal dryness is making you sore, water alone is the best way to wash your intimate bits. Use a natural body wash especially formulated for your vagina if you need to feel fresher. Try Canesfresh Feminine Wash Soothing Wash Gel. It’s a Canesten product that has been developed especially for those times “when you’re suffering discomfort around your intimate area”, such as vaginal dryness and thrush.
Lubricate and moisturise Your vagina is less likely during menopause to produce moisture when stimulated and it also shrinks a little, so it’s time for a little lubrication. Lubricants are usually used to relieve vaginal dryness during intercourse rather than as a long-term solution. Products include Yes Water or Plant Based Lubricant, Sylk Intimate Moisturiser or Slippery Stuff, a water-based personal lubricant. Now cross your legs! -the tissue around your vagina thins during menopause so sex may cause uncomfortable friction or even tearing. Recommended in NICE guidelines Replens long-lasting vaginal moisturiser and Sylk Natural Intimate Moisturiser are available on prescription, over the counter, or online.
Supplements worth trying for loss of libido
Black cohosh and ginseng contain phytoestrogens which may help ease hormonal fluctuations.
Agnus castus: may help to stabilise hormone levels.
Ashwaganda root may stimulate your libido and increase your satisfaction by increasing blood flow to your bits below.
Maca Root, high in zinc, an essential mineral for sex hormones.
Suma root, Brazilian ginseng and Korean red ginseng: thought to balance hormones and energise your libido. Allegedly, intensifying sexual experiences.
Passionflower extract: a relaxant, may help with anxiety and stress and in turn, your libido
Royal jelly: suggested for its energy and stamina enhancing properties.
Cleanmarine MenoMin for Women: capsules containing omega-3 krill oil, herbal extracts and vitamins. The combination aims to assist menopausal symptoms, regulate hormones, maintain mucous membranes, as well as reduce tiredness and fatigue.
Natural products may impact on other medications. Talk to your doctor about how safe these products will be for you, if you have any existing health condition.
Alternative help for loss of libido
The stress of menopause may actually manifest muscle tension in your pelvic floor. Christien Bird is a Women's Health Physiotherapist from the White Hart Clinic, she told Hot Flush that women may need more physiological help to relieve tension.
Acupuncture Can be used to strengthen and enhance sexual health. Acupuncture focuses on the person as a whole, so a practitioner would look at your emotional and physical well-being in helping to improve libido. Look at the British Acupuncture Council www.acupuncture.org.uk website for a practitioner near you.
Traditional Chinese medicine Chinese medicine sees an imbalance of the energy systems (Qi) and targets the heart and kidneys to help with menopause symptoms. Try Horny Goat Weed, which couldn’t be more aptly named, and claims to boost natural levels of testosterone. We haven’t tried it, but let us know if you have and it worked for you.
Aromatherapy Fragrance in essential oils may stimulate an emotional response boosting your mood and increasing your libido. Try:
Lavender: thought to balance out hormones. Put a drop on your wrist or behind ears.
Ylang Ylang: thought to enhance sexual energy. Burn it in a diffuser.
Homeopathy Homeopathy treats the whole person rather than one particular symptom, so in theory your libido could benefit from a homeopathic consultation.
When to see your doctor about loss of libido
If lifestyle changes don’t help, your doctor can discuss hormonal treatment options or may be able to refer you for specialist support. Psychosexual therapy is available on the NHS, or privately.
It can be tough talking to your doctor about such intimate areas of your life. The 2016 British Menopause Survey found that half the women going through menopause are too embarrassed to talk to their doctor. Try to book an appointment with a doctor you feel most comfortable with, or ask if a doctor in your practice specialises in menopause.
Alternatively, you could ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist menopause clinic in your area. If they can’t, go online. A quick internet search showed that Hot Flush’s local health trust runs a ‘menopause clinic for women experiencing a problematic menopause’ in a local hospital.
Women's Health Physiotherapist Christien Bird from the White hart Clinic, told Hot Flush that she often has patients referred by doctor's to help with pelvic floor problems, prolapse, incontinence and painful sex due to vaginal dryness, or muscle tension in the pelvic area. She said there is no subject that is too intimate and that you need to be 'courageous and ask for help'.
Another option is Dr Morton’s medical helpline, where it’s possible to speak anonymously about intimate issues and receive expert advice from an expert gynaecologist, to help you control your issues. This service charges a small fee, details of which can be found on the website www.drmortons.co.uk.
And then there’s always HRT…
HRT can improve sleep pattern, increase energy levels and reduce stress. However, some forms of HRT can cause the body to produce less testosterone, important for libido, mood and energy levels so you may want to check this out with your doctor.