When a friend of mine began dating her husband, nearly 20 years ago, she couldn’t keep her hands off him. “I thought about him at work, while I was with friends, and even while I was grocery shopping,” she says. “Then, when we finally were together, it was all I could do to let him in the front door before I tore his clothes off.” This passion continued throughout the first years of their marriage.
Then they had their first child. Janet left her job and stayed home to be with the baby. Within a year she was pregnant again. For years her life revolved around naps, play dates and getting her daughters to use the potty. Though she still loved her husband, the passion they once had lay dormant. Now her children are older, she’s going back to work and her sense of self is returning, but she still prefers a good book to sex. Can she and other women like her reclaim that passion of earlier days or is it too late?
Fortunately, the answer to that last question is “no;” it’s not too late. But let’s first discuss a few reasons why her desire for sex went away in the first place. Many theories abound. Some specialists say it’s due to hormones. As a woman gets older she loses testosterone, a hormone that plays a major role in driving female desire, interest in sex and even the energy for sex. Vaginal dryness that accompanies aging could also be a problem, as could weak pelvic floor muscles and incontinence. Many other specialists look to a woman’s lifestyle. Most women are busy juggling work, kids, and managing a household. They are overwhelmed and exhausted.
Many relationships also suffer from too much familiarity. “Many women are in longer
relationships at this age, “ says Esther Suijker de Vries, owner of Female and Partners, the first female owned erotica store for women in Europe. “They have become accustomed to each other. Partners become more friends than lovers.” But she has some suggestions to bring the spark back.
Suijker de Vries recommends getting back to the basics with your partner. “Begin with a massage. It doesn’t have to lead to sex. It’s about rediscovering intimacy, breaking from routines and simply relaxing. The more relaxed you are, the more open you will be for sexual initiative.” She believes in empowering women to rediscover their sexuality with toys, nice lingerie, and even “naughty outfits for staying at home.”
“As women get older they also experience vaginal dryness, which causes discomfort, “ says Dr. Alka Sharma, a gynecologist from Scotland who retired when she moved with her husband to the Eindhoven area several years ago. “Discomfort leads to not wanting to have sex, but the less sex you have, the less sex you want. It’s a vicious cycle.” She recommends using lubricants to relieve vaginal dryness and trying different positions. “Some couples may even have sex in the bath to relieve the discomfort.” Hormone replacement therapy is also an option. These supplements, which come in the form of tablets or implants, may increase desire, but they are controversial and are rarely used just to treat a low libido.
An easy fix for all women is to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. “Increasing pelvic muscles doesn’t directly help with desire, but it may make sex more pleasurable,” says Sharma. Weak pelvic muscles leads to incontinence. “Many women with incontinence are less comfortable having sex. They don’t feel good about themselves and are worried about leaking during sex.” Strengthening pelvic muscles means less incontinence, taking away anxiety, increasing confidence, thus leading to more desire to have sex. Suijker de Vries takes it even further. “Most women think (having stronger pelvic muscles) will just make it better for their partner, creating a tighter space, but it’s really important for the woman herself. The stronger her vaginal muscles are, the stronger her orgasm will be.”
Several studies agree. These muscles hold the uterus, bladder and rectum in place. Over time they weaken, especially in menopausal women and those who have had children. This weakening leads to urinary incontinence and, since the muscles contract during orgasms, a diminished sexual experience. Pelvic muscle training programs are a great way to strengthen your muscles in about 10 minutes a day. In a few months Carin will be releasing a package that includes two pairs of Carin Protect basic underwear, one sensor for monitoring urine loss and access to the Carin
app, which includes an easy to use exercise program for strengthening your pelvic floor. Carin is currently looking for volunteers to try out the product and app. If you would like to be a part of the trial please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Sexual energy is a great power for women, but we have lost touch with it,” says Suijker de Vries. She tells the story of one woman who is 83 years old. “She tells me she uses her vibrator every day and will always be sexual. That’s what keeps her young!” It’s never too late to reclaim your desire but don’t wait. To modify an old cliché: When it comes to having sex use it or lose it!
By Cristin Middlebrooks
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