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The menopause is a natural part of the ageing process that every woman will go through. However, as a condition that can have a significant impact on mood, memory, health, and sex drive, the menopause can often be challenging for women and those in a relationship with them.
In this article, you’ll find information to help you better understand:
The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.
The menopause usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age. However, around one in 100 women experience it before they are 40 years old – known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.
In most cases, periods become less frequent over a few months or years, eventually stopping altogether. However, some women may find that their periods stop suddenly.
Regardless of how it happens, a woman is said to have reached menopause when she has not had a period for a year.
The symptoms of the menopause are caused by a fall in levels of the hormone oestrogen in the body. However, this change affects every woman differently. Around eight in 10 women develop menopausal symptoms, while some women never develop any symptoms.
Common symptoms of the menopause include:
These symptoms can begin months or years before periods stop. In some women, menopausal symptoms can last for a few months, while in others, symptoms may continue for several years. More than 50% of women have symptoms for more than seven years.
Menopausal symptoms tend to improve as the menopause ends. However, because oestrogen levels remain low after the menopause, women can experience lasting changes that may negatively affect their health.
These changes include:
It is quite normal for a woman to lose interest in sex during and after the menopause. There are many reasons for this. A person’s sex drive usually decreases with age, but falling levels of the hormones involved in sexual desire around the time of the menopause can also reduce a woman’s libido.
Other menopause-related changes such as disturbed sleep, lack of energy, and vaginal pain or dryness due to vaginal thinning may also decrease your partner’s sex drive.
The menopause can affect your partner’s emotions in ways that can make her less interested in sex. Women often report feeling more anxious or irritable, and having mood swings during the menopause.
Women going through the menopause may also have an increased risk of developing depression, which is more serious than mood swings and needs medical attention. Encourage your partner to see her doctor if she has, or you suspect she may have, depression.
If your partner is not as interested in sex as she used to be, the first thing to bear in mind is that this change is often temporary.
You can help the situation by discussing your feelings with your partner and communicating your needs. Just because your partner does not feel like having intercourse does not mean that she wants no sexual intimacy. She may be comfortable with kissing, massage and oral sex. You can also help to encourage feelings of intimacy between the two of you by spending quality time together and going on dates.
A doctor can also help in this situation, so encourage your partner to see her doctor if she would like some help. Treatments are available for increasing the libido and improving the vaginal symptoms that can make sex uncomfortable.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can often help with increasing sexual desire. If your partner is considering HRT to improve her symptoms, encourage her to speak with a doctor. They will be able to offer her advice about the risks and benefits of HRT. If HRT is not effective or safe for you, there may be other options which you can discuss with your doctor or pharmacist.
Your partner's doctor can also prescribe oestrogen to improve vaginal pain, dryness or itchiness. This usually takes the form of a cream, ring or pessary that is put directly into the vagina.
Non-prescription lubricants and moisturisers that can be bought from a pharmacy can also help to improve vaginal discomfort. Your partner can speak with her local pharmacist for advice on the best non-prescription treatments to use.
The menopause can be a challenging time for many women. Aside from the physical and emotional symptoms caused by a fall in oestrogen levels, entering this new stage of life can make some women feel old, unattractive, and no longer useful.
Reading this guide is a great first step in supporting your partner through the menopause. Educating yourself about the condition, the symptoms it causes, and the changes women may go through can help you to become more patient and understanding towards your partner.
Other ways in which you can support your partner during the menopause include:
If your partner is finding the symptoms particularly difficult to manage, encourage her to speak with her doctor.
They can help by:
While the menopause can be challenging for women going through it, it can also be a difficult time for their partners. If you would like support to help you cope better with your partner’s life change, you may find the following resources useful:
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.