Have you a noticed a lull in sexual desire since entering menopause? Well, you are not alone – many midlife women report a change to their libidos, making it one of the most common symptoms associated with the menopause. Yet, it’s not often talked about. The truth is, sexual health and pleasure is fundamental to our overall health and wellbeing. The good news is that it’s possible to awaken more pleasure through menopause and beyond with the right knowledge, care and intention. Let’s find out how.
The stress, fatigue and overwhelm we experience while navigating menopause can disconnect us from the pleasure that inherently resides in our bodies. Feeling connected with ourselves is imperative if we are to truly experience pleasure – sexual or otherwise. We often soldier on through our day to ensure that everyone else is happy, sometimes at the expense of our own wellbeing. Prioritising pleasure is not selfish or indulgent – it is what makes you human. When you make space to invite pleasure you expand your capacity to feel more of it and this has a lovely rippling in all aspects of your life.
Focus on the things that bring you joy and make you feel alive and vibrant. It could be wearing a brightly coloured lipstick, pausing to enjoy a cup of tea, walking in nature, dancing to a favourite tune – it doesn’t matter. What matters is bringing mindfulness to the things that bring you pleasure, so you can consciously cultivate more of it. Notice the feelings and sensations in your body when you do those things. This orients you towards feeling good. Make sure you do something every day. This helps to bring natural pleasure into your life as a state, rather than another thing to be ticked off the to-do list.
Power of the senses
The senses are a wonderful pathway to experience more pleasure – focus on smell, taste, touch, sound and visuals. Spend time engaging with your senses and discovering which ones you respond to most.
Science has shown us how responsive our nervous system is to the sense of touch. Touch has the power to lower cortisol levels, raise the feel-good hormone of oxytocin and provide us with a sense of safety, love and feeling comfortable in our own skin. Taking pleasure into our own hands enlivens our sensual engagement with ourselves and the world around us, creating the opportunity for meaningful connection, pleasure, creativity and joy.
Experiment with the following types of touch:
- Energetic: barely touching, anticipating, like air moving across the skin
- Sensual: soft, light, fluid like touch and strokes
- Grounding: firm, deep, purposeful and directed to erogenous zones
- Fiery: scratching, slapping, pinching, intense with an element of surprise
Take time to notice which types of touch light you up!
Knowledge is power
The more we know about our bodies, the better we can advocate for ourselves both in the doctor’s office and in the bedroom. This includes getting to know the most intimate parts of ourselves – our vulvas. The vulva is external, and includes the mons pubis, clitoris, labia minora, labia majora, urethra, vaginal opening and anus. The vagina is the internal canal between the vulva and the cervix.
Oestrogen decline in menopause affects collagen and elasticity to the vulva leading to thinning, dryness, pain and discomfort known as Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause. These changes can lead us to disconnect from pleasure and intimacy all together.
Explore what your vulva looks like while sitting in a comfortable position using a hand mirror. Use this time to know what is normal for your vulva so that any changes i.e. thickening, warts, lumps, ulcers, blisters or sores can be reported immediately to your GP. Moisturise daily to alleviate dryness, discomfort and to maintain the integrity of vulval tissue.
Self-pleasure practice is a wonderful way to get to connect with your body and get to know yourself sensually and sexually. Self-pleasure invites curiosity to what turns you on and considers the whole body, not just the genitals. There is no right way or wrong way to self-pleasure because it’s guided by what feels good to you. Exploring yourself in this way puts you in the mood for pleasure and empowers you to communicate your needs, wants and desires with a partner.
Your whole body is capable of experiencing pleasure, but there are some places on the female body that are more sensitive to pleasure. Erogenous zones are areas on the body that are highly sensitive and respond with pleasurable sensations and heightened arousal when stimulated. Allow yourself a quiet space and time to explore the following areas with your own touch: neck, mouth/lips, inner arms, armpits, breasts, abdomen, pelvic area, inner thighs and feet.
You can go further and explore what feels pleasurable sexually by massaging the external vulval area just to notice what you feel. It’s normal to have some resistance so acknowledge that and create a feeling of comfort and safety by taking slow, deep breaths. Use a good quality, water-based lubricant, which is often better suited for dry and sensitive vulvas. Making gentle and daily connection with your vulva helps to establish more intimacy and inner communication to cultivate self awareness, self love and sexual wellness.
Move and relax your body
Studies have shown that a regular yoga practice can enhance the connection between your mind and body, boosting your mood, increasing desire, arousal, and sexual satisfaction. Just 20 minutes of yoga can improve your flexibility, strengthen your joints, and increase blood flow – all of which contribute to a more satisfying sex life. In addition, incorporating breathwork into a yoga practice reduces stress, improves sleep, calms your mind and puts your whole body at ease.
Yoga’s focus on inner awareness and attention of your body’s abilities enhances the way you feel about your body improving self-esteem and confidence. Yoga philosophy also teaches contentment, acceptance, love for oneself and another and theses attitudes can deepen self-connection and intimacy.
We can feel frustrated and betrayed by our bodies as hormonal changes lead to various changes in our bodies. We lose trust in our bodies, start following fad diets and stop listening to what our body is telling us. The truth is our bodies are meant to change as we move into menopause. Instead of blaming your body for it’s inadequacies, try to build a more compassionate relationship with your body and appreciate the amazing things it can do for us. Consider how are you caring for your body right now? Are you listening to your body’s cues for nourishment, rest, movement and pleasure? Are you speaking kindly to your body? How can you regard your body with the mutual respect, gratitude and trust of a true friend?
Setting positive bodily intentions with words or statements that you repeat to yourself can help challenge limiting beliefs and shift how you feel about your body. Cultivate these intentions any time you are engaging with yourself either whilst exercising or taking a shower, looking at yourself in the mirror, getting dressed in the morning, engaging in self pleasure or intimacy with a partner.
Allow the following intentions to serve you in cultivating a loving and life long friendship with your body:
- My body is my ally
- I trust my body’s wisdom
- My body can do amazing things
- I feel at home in my body
- My body welcomes pleasure
Embrace menopause as a powerful time to reflect on how you can deepen intimacy with yourself and reawaken new pathways for a life full of pleasure and desire.
Gabriella Espinosa is a Body Wisdom Coach and Pleasure Educator and can be found here.
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