Many menopausal women lose interest in sex but TV doctor, Dawn Harper says it’s possible to bring back the fun between the sheets. In this article she discusses the sensitive symptoms of menopause.
Dr Dawn Harper, the vibrant and delightful medical presenter of the popular Channel 4 show Embarrassing Bodies, understands the complex issues facing menopausal women and their erratic sex drives. A much-loved GP in Gloucestershire, where she lives with her GP husband Graham and three children, Dr Dawn has been fielding questions from troubled patients and viewers for years.
She says the havoc caused to women’s libidos is due to mischievous hormones. “The average age for the menopause in the UK is 50 to 52 when the ovaries stop producing eggs but oestrogen levels can fall anytime from the mid-40s. Hormone levels fluctuate wildly during this time. A lot of women ask for blood tests to check their hormones but readings can vary from day to day.
“As far as I’m concerned, if a woman of a certain age has menopausal symptoms, then it doesn’t really matter what her blood tests say, she needs help! Some women are very sensitive to fluctuating hormones. Post-menopause, the low level of oestrogen has stabilised.”
Lack of oestrogen often leads to vaginal dryness, which makes sex uncomfortable or painful so women avoid sex. “Sex is meant to be fun! Why would you want to have sex if it’s jolly well uncomfortable!” she quips.
You don’t have to just accept it as a normal part of ageing
Dr Dawn recommends oestrogen pessaries or creams to enhance lubrication. “It is so important to see your GP and ask for help. Vaginal dryness shouldn’t be accepted as a normal part of ageing.” Female libido is complicated according to Dr Dawn. Other menopausal symptoms such as night sweats, hot flushes, mood swings, being tearful and suffering low confidence also affect a woman’s interest in sex.
“If you are waking in a drenching sweat several times a night and are chronically sleep deprived, well that’s a good reason for wanting to get to sleep when your head hits the pillow. Weight gain around the midriff, once known as middle-aged spread, can also make a woman feel less attractive and sexy.
“A woman’s interest in sex is affected by a multitude of factors including stresses at work, a messy house and worrying about what the kids are up to! The Empty Nest Syndrome can be a boost to romance but can also bring relationship problems. Women are all very different in how we manage this passage of life.”
Dr Dawn recommends a healthy, well-balanced diet and regular exercise as positive ways to navigate the turbulence of menopause.