Before you start blushing, remember: Sex shouldn’t be a taboo topic, especially with your ob-gyn. As we age and have babies, our bodies and hormones inevitably change — but that doesn’t mean that your sex life has to suffer. Dr. Rebekah Richmond recently appeared on the Uncluttered and Unfiltered podcast to talk all things sex over 50 with hosts Eden Kendall and Christine Stone.
“You know, let’s face it — in menopause, our bodies are changing. In perimenopause, our bodies are changing,” Dr. Richmond says. “Metabolism changes, and psychologically, it’s a hard, very difficult thing for women to see in the mirror. And what starts our desire is how we feel about ourselves.”
Read on for a few tips and truths from Dr. Richmond when it comes to doing the deed. Not 50 yet? Trust us, you still might learn a few things!
The low sex drive struggle is real
Contrary to popular belief, your libido can actually start to change in your 30s. “Our hormones start to change in our 30s, and then the average age of menopause is 51 so hormones drastically change at that point. And it’s a big question, a big concern [from my patients],” Dr. Richmond says.
The primary reason for a lower sex drive as you age? Chalk it up to those ever-changing hormones.”There are a thousand reasons to have a low libido or a low sex drive, but after 50, the estrogen and progesterone in our bodies start to decrease,” she shares. “It’s really estrogen-driven, and with that decrease in estrogen, a lot of things start to happen. Mainly, we get some vaginal dryness, which is kind of the beginning of the end. As our bodies are made to procreate, and after 50, we typically don’t procreate, so the thought process is why should we want to have sex if we can’t procreate? But clearly, that’s not the case.”
Tips for boosting libido & improving your sex life
Get your vaginal health in tip-top shape. Dr. Richmond suggests starting with your vaginal health. She says, “If you’re having pain from vaginal dryness, then who’s going to want to have sex? It’s a vicious cycle, if you have pain when you have sex, then it affects your brain, and why in the world would you want to do something that causes pain?” Well said!
Consider supplements such as estrogen or hyaluronic acid. Low-dose vaginal estrogen supplements are available to help get that estrogen back and boost blood flow to the clitoris. For patients who may not want to take estrogen, products with hyaluronic acid are available (not to be confused with face cream!). “The hyaluronic acid builds up that collagen in the vagina, so it just helps with that natural lubrication — little gels or vaginal inserts that you use about every three days. It doesn’t burn, it just builds up collagen and can be a really good option,” Dr. Richmond says.
Don’t forget the lubrication. “Our first go-to is to make sure patients know they need lubrication. And that’s the main thing to start intercourse going. I always tell patients to sit with some lubricant by their bedside and put that on before anything starts to happen. Bring it into foreplay, just make sure you have a bottle of lubrication,” she stresses, adding that her favorite lubricant is Überlube (Amazon).
Try a prescription medication. “No, there’s not a Viagra for women,” Dr. Richmond jokes. “We are very complicated human beings, so unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are different parts of our brain that lead to different parts of our vagina and clitoris that really require stimulation. So, it’s not as simple as getting Viagra.” She adds that there is a medication on the market called Addyi, that is geared toward boosting libido. It works sometimes, but what’s important to note is to have realistic goals: “It’s not going to make you want to have sex every day again, but if we’re at a once-a-month and we want to get to a once-a-week, it might be something that’s an option.”
Increase sexual desire with your partner. After you’ve been with your partner for a while, a few behavioral modifications could be key in order to boost the romance at home. “Date night, have a few glasses of wine… quite often, I’ll have patients schedule sex. So, I always tell them, either Freaky Friday or Sexy Saturday — you pick one and have your partner know that this is the night. It’s not that, ‘Oh, God, is he gonna tap me on the shoulder? Is he gonna want to have sex tonight?’ You know that Friday nights are for sex, and once you know it, it kind of takes that pressure off of your partner, because he knows he’s gonna get it, and you know what to expect. And then sometimes, as a woman, if you’re getting a little frisky and your partner turns the other way… boy, what a blow to our ego. So, if you schedule sex — I know it doesn’t sound fun — but that scheduled sex actually can help get that body more used to it.”
Buy a new vibrator. Dr. Richmond isn’t kidding! “I tell all my 50-year-olds, you’ve got to get a new vibrator. I actually tell that to women of all ages because most of us, as women, cannot achieve orgasms with intercourse alone. There are nerves that are inside the vagina for sure, but knowing yourself, and how to stimulate it, that’s really important, and that’s what the vibrators are there for.”
She adds that there are literally hundreds on the market, and you can try a few out to see what works for you. “There are some with clitoral sucking mechanisms, those are a bit powerful. I have to say, they’ve come a long way with vibrators. It’s not your mother’s vibrator anymore. And then there are the little pocket vibrators that just provide a little vibration. It does a couple of things: Number one, it gets you stimulated, but number two, you tell your husband you’re getting a new vibrator, and that in itself is going to help your sex life.”
Suggest that your partner also speak with their physician. It takes two people to be in a relationship, and there’s always the possibility that your spouse could use a little help, too. “It’s much easier to help that department than it is to help ours. But they do have to have the courage to talk to their physicians, as well,” Dr. Richmond notes.
When you’re over 50 & single
If you’re over 50 and may have new sex partners, it is still important to take certain precautions — even if you’re well past the baby-making stage. “A lot of times I have newly divorced women who are coming in and maybe interested in starting to date. So, I tell them, the Gardasil vaccine that we give to our young girls to help prevent cervical cancer is something that I would consider in any woman going through a divorce who is going to have new sexual partners,” she says, adding that STDs can still be a concern. “You do still worry about STDs, so condom use, yes. Birth control, no, as long as you are in official menopause. But we have to know that you’re in menopause because you can get pregnant at 50 if you’re still ovulating.”
Dr. Richmond suggests setting aside an appointment to discuss any concerns surrounding sex. “Let’s face it, I’m a woman, too, and unfortunately, I went through menopause at 39. So, I had to figure a lot of things out on my own. If it’s out there, I’ve tried it. I try everything to see. Any intervention, you’re going to have risks and benefits,” she says. “I’ve been through it, which is maybe why I’m so passionate about it. It’s more out there and it’s being spoken about more. We as women are becoming more and more important in society, and it’s getting a bit more studied and evaluated. I would caution some women about some of the stay young and rejuvenated clinics out there — be careful and talk to your gynecologist. They should be well-studied in these areas and be able to provide risk-to-benefit ratios to everybody.”
Contact Beaches OBGYN at (904) 241-9775 or text “request an appointment” to 904-441-6725.