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English 212
2002 Second Paper
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Menopause and Sexuality Curriculum

Deborah Sosower

Deborah Sosower
Thinking Sex Paper 2
Menopause and Sexuality Curriculum
Quarterly: $25/year
Box 816
Stoney Brook, NY 11790-0609
**Menopause Core Curriculum Study Guide
**Menopause Guidebook


*What is it?
‡Menopause is the transition women experience from being able to bear children to being unable to. Now, it is recognized that menopause is a natural step in the process of aging. Menopause is the technical name of when a woman stops having menstrual periods. This occurs because, due to aging, the ovaries stop producing estrogen.
*When do you get it?
‡Women anywhere between the ages of 45-60 can experience menopause, but the onset of menopause can occur earlier, or if a woman's ovaries are surgically removed or for any other reason stop functioning.
‡The most common and stereotypical symptom of menopause is hot flashes, where women are suddenly and intensely hot, despite whatever weather they are in. This can cause women to have trouble sleeping, and may induce mood swings in some cases.
‡Irregular periods, or "break-through bleeding"; this is where a woman may menstruate irregularly, such as every other month, or when they are around female relatives that have not gone through menopause yet.
‡Vaginal or uterus infections
‡Urinary incontinence; where a woman may have trouble controlling urine flow, or have leakage.
‡Vaginal inflammation or atrophy; since the vagina is very affected by estrogen, it may become swollen in reaction to menopause. Conversely, also due to the lack of estrogen, the tissues in the vagina begin to become more delicate and dry and may start to shrink.
‡Some women experience changes around skin, hair, or their digestive tract as a result of menopause
‡Some of the more long-term effects of the halted production of estrogen include increased chances of osteoporosis and heart disease.
‡About 75% of women express a feeling of some uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, though it varies from case to case. The most common symptoms are hot flashes.
*How long to symptoms last?
‡The immediate effects of menopause, such as mood swings, irregular bleeding or hot flashes do not last a long time, relatively speaking. Some of the more lifelong changes from menopause are due to the lack of previous estrogen levels, including bone density or optimal organ function.

Sex after Menopause

* Sex After Menopause
Of all the complaints and fears that women express about the effects of menopause, the possibility of the loss of sexuality is most pervasive. However, a recent study indicates, "Little difference was found between age-matched subgroups of pre- and postmenopausal women in frequency of sexual behavior and attitudes towards their sexual relationships."(10) In this study 436 women were assessed. Outcomes indicated that while frequency of sexual encounters decreased somewhat with age,
enjoyment and satisfaction associated with sex was not related to age. In a very real sense, the old adage, 'if you don't use it, you loose it', applies to sexual function. Women who continue to experience sexual stimulation, either with a partner or via masturbation exhibit less thinning and drying of the vagina after menopause. (11)2
* Is a change in sexual desire normal after menopause?
Many women say that their sexual desire lessens during the time of menopause. In many cases, the cause is physical. For instance, because lower estrogen levels sometimes cause physical changes in a woman's sexual organs, having sex may become uncomfortable or painful so it is important to find out whether there is a physical cause for lack of desire. For some women, taking hormones called androgens can help restore sexual desire.

Some women find that sexual desire changes because of how they feel about themselves during menopause. Counseling and support groups can help women learn strategies for coping with the physical and emotional changes that occur during menopause.
*What can be done to relieve pain during sex?
Intercourse may be painful when there is not enough moisture in the vagina or when the tissue lining the vagina becomes fragile because of lower estrogen levels in the body. Several methods are available to relieve pain during intercourse. It may sound surprising, but frequent sexual activity is one of the most effective remedies for vaginal dryness. Other remedies include taking a warm bath before intercourse or using lubricants. Short-acting, water-based lubricants, such as K-Y Jelly, supply moisture and are used immediately before intercourse. These products are readily available in grocery stores and pharmacies, usually at a low cost.

Long-acting vaginal moisturizers are also available, and can provide extended relief. Vaginal creams containing estrogen are very helpful in relieving the symptoms of menopause, including vaginal dryness.3

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