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Changes in Women's Sex Life Due to Aging

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Updated June 13, 2014

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Sex and aging are topics most older women do not want to talk about. The most obvious changes in a woman’s body as she ages come with menopause. During menopause, decreasing estrogen levels cause physical changes that may impact sexual function. Aging may also bring emotions that can interfere with sex (see these sex tips for the older women for some help).

Menopause and Decrease in Estrogen

During menopause, the levels of estrogen are reduced. These estrogen decreases alter the thickness and size of a woman’s reproductive organs. These changes include:
  • Loss of elasticity and a thinning of the vaginal tissue
  • Decrease in the amount of lubrication
  • Decrease in the size of the clitoral, vulvar and labial tissues
  • Decreases in the size of the cervix, uterus and ovaries

The Impact on Sex

These changes alter the experience of sex in the following ways:
  • The anticipation before orgasm decreases
  • Orgasms may be less intense
  • Sexual desire may be reduced
  • However, the sensitivity of the clitoris remains the same

Medical Procedures and Sexual Desire

Emotions can impact both sexual desire and sexual satisfaction. As women age, the changes in their bodies can trigger powerful emotions. Surgical procedures can also change how a woman feels about her own body. Some examples of how aging impacts sex through emotions include:
  • Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and sometimes ovaries): This surgical procedure does not change a woman’s ability to have sex, though both strong emotions about this procedure and changes in hormones can impact sexual desire.
  • Mastectomy (removal of a breast due to cancer): A mastectomy can radically alter how a woman perceives her own beauty and sexual attractiveness. Open communication with your sexual partner can help tremendously.

Health Conditions and Sexual Function

Many chronic health conditions can interfere with sex. Conditions such as arthritis can make sex painful. Heart disease, can make the physical activity of sex difficult. By aggressively managing your health conditions, you can improve the quality of your sexual experiences.

Perception of Aging

How women perceive themselves as they age greatly impacts sexual desire. In our culture, we are constantly exposed to images of youth. As we age, there is little to reassure women that they are still sexually attractive and beautiful. Because of this, women may lose interest in sex as they age. Talking about these emotions with your sexual partner can help relieve some of the stress around body image and aging.

Tips for Healthy Sex for the Older Woman

Sources:

National Institute on Aging. Bound For Your Good Health: Sexuality in Later Life. NIH Publication Number 05-7185.

National Institute on Aging. Bound For Your Good Health: Menopause. NIH Publication Number 05-7185.

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