Relationships matter for sex after menopause
Changes in relationship status or negative feelings about partners both have significant impacts on women’s sex lives after menopause, and have a stronger influence than hormone levels, researchers from Australia and Europe have found.
These findings demonstrate “the powerful effects of psychosocial factors on female sexual function,” write Dr. Lorraine Dennerstein of the University of Melbourne and her colleagues in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
Many women are warned to expect changes in their sex lives after menopause, when hormone levels drop precipitously. Indeed, previous research has shown that lower hormone levels have a negative effect on women’s desire for sex, and her enjoyment of it, and also increase her risk of experiencing pain with intercourse.
However, Dennerstein’s team says, when a woman goes through menopause, other things are changing besides her hormones. Her children may leave home, she may change or lose partners, or she could experience ill health. Previous research has shown that all of these changes may have a negative impact on her sex life.
To investigate the potential influences on women’s sex lives after menopause, Dennerstein and her colleagues followed 336 women between the ages of 45 and 55 for 8 years, noting their hormone levels and the status of their relationships.
The researchers found that women’s sexual enjoyment and arousal were influenced by their previous levels of sexual function, a change in the status of their relationships, their feelings for current partners, and hormone levels.
When comparing influences, they found that previous sexual functioning and relationship factors had a stronger influence on women’s sex lives during menopause than hormone levels.
As part of their investigation, the team found that levels of estrogen have to be quite high to have a meaningful effect on a woman’s libido and responsiveness. “This suggests,” they write, “that the low doses of estrogen currently advocated in hormone therapy will not be effective in sustaining women’s sexual function.”
SOURCE: Fertility and Sterility, July 2005.
Tell-a-Friend comments powered by Disqus