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By Kate Silver
This article originally published on GetOld.com
You may remember the days when menopause was spoken of in hushed tones, like a movie villain, and referred to as “The Change.”
Today, that’s no longer the case, according to Nicole Williams, MD, who is founder of The Gynecology Institute of Chicago and a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“Everybody’s talking about it, especially with the advent of the Internet,” she says. “In my office, we completely embrace it as something that’s normal, something to even get excited about because then you’ll be free from periods and other things. Then you can start thinking about a different way of living.”
With menopause -- which Williams defines as “the cessation of menstrual periods for at least one year, occurring usually between the ages of 45 and 55,” -- the body undergoes a number of changes, which may impact sex. Williams regularly talks to her patients about what they can expect and how to handle those changes.
Here’s what she tells them.
- Hormone changes can impact the libido. Williams says that when a woman’s menstrual period stops, she will also experience a decrease in the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. For some women, that can lead to a decreased libido, but for others it may not. “Every body is a little different,” she says.
- Don’t let dryness discourage you. Williams says that some women experience vaginal dryness after menopause, which can make sex feel painful. She says a little bit of lubricant can go a long way to making sex more pleasurable.
- Safe sex is important at every age. Sexually transmitted infections are a risk at every stage of life. Williams says that if you’re engaging in sexual activities with a new partner, you should use condoms, no matter what age you are. “Who wants to get herpes at 60?” she says.
- You’re beautiful at every stage in life. Maybe you’ve had a couple of babies or your belly feels differently than it once did. Williams is here to remind you to appreciate your body. That, she says, will help you feel sexy. She tells her patients to get undressed and stand in front of a mirror and look at themselves. “A real woman is beautiful and my patients don’t think about that. So I give them permission to embrace their own beauty.”
Whatever their experience, Williams encourages women to keep talking about menopause with their friends and daughters – even their partners – so they know what to expect. “It’s going to happen,” she says. “You may as well be prepared.”