Painful sex is a common experience for many menopausal women.
You’re not alone!
Menopause brings about a period of change. But two things are certain — your vaginal health is important, and sex should always be pleasurable.
Fortunately, we’ll show you how to regain your groove in 10 simple steps.
Also Check Out:
How Does Menopause Affect Your Vagina?
Let’s get scientific for a second.
Medically speaking, painful intercourse is known as dyspareunia. It’s a persistent or recurring pain in the genitals that occurs before, during, or after sex.
Many people experience both superficial and deep sexual pain. And while dyspareunia is temporary for most, it can become a pain disorder for others.
So, why does this happen during menopause?
First, it helps to know that doctors commonly refer to menopause as the “genitourinary syndrome of menopause.”
This means menopause has both urinary and vaginal symptoms. When there are big changes downstairs, like menopause causes, it’s bound to impact your sex life.
1. The Effects of Estrogen on the Vagina
During menopause, your estrogen levels may start some drama.
This hormone facilitates vaginal lubrication and restoration of the vaginal lining.
When you hit menopause, your estrogen hormone levels drop, causing several vaginal changes, such as:
Thinning and losing fat in your labia majora and labia minora – the skin folds (or “lips”) around your vaginal opening.
A more exposed clitoris because you have less fat keeping it tucked away.
- Your body producing less natural vaginal lubrication.
The thinning of vaginal tissue and onset of vaginal dryness are part of vaginal atrophy, a condition common after menopause.
You have less lubrication and padding around your vaginal wall and vaginal opening.
So, you may experience more friction, irritation, and even tearing of the vaginal lining during sexual intercourse. (Ouch. *Clutches lube bottle tightly*)
Lack of vaginal lubrication isn’t always a menopausal symptom or a sign of vaginal atrophy. Many factors can cause dryness, from dehydration to smoking.
2. The Effects of Menopause on the Urinary Tract
Many postmenopausal women experience urinary symptoms like:
- Frequent urination
- Burning sensation while peeing
- Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
What does this have to do with pain during intercourse?
Well, for one thing, an urgent need to pee during the deed is never comfortable. UTIs can also be painful.
Additionally, vaginal dryness during sex can cause cuts on the vulva and vaginal wall, further increasing the risk of developing UTIs.
Read More: Love the idea of coconut oil as lube but unsure of the side effects? Find out if Coconut Oil as Lube Can Cause a UTI.
So if you’re dealing with vaginal changes leading to painful sex after menopause, what remedies can you try?
10 Ways to Deal With Painful Intercourse After Menopause
Try these ten easy tips to make sex less painful:
1. Use Suitable Bath Products
Despite what some may say, your vagina is self-cleaning and doesn’t have to smell like a floral arrangement to be sanitary!
Fragranced hygiene products (soaps, perfumes, sanitary pads, etc.) can wreak havoc on your vaginal health.
This also goes for douching sprays, vaginal steaming, non-breathable underwear, and certain types of lube (e.g., DIY lube and lubes containing glycerine).
All your vagina needs to stay clean and happy is a regular warm water rinse (be sure to get between all the folds) and good-quality cotton undies.
2. Add a Vaginal Moisturizer to Your Daily Routine
Topical vaginal moisturizers can temporarily relieve the discomfort of vaginal dryness.
But it gets better!
When used daily, it traps moisture in the vaginal tissue to relieve pain and dryness for longer periods. And less dryness = less painful intercourse.
Coconut oil makes a great vaginal moisturizer. But go for the Coconu Water Based Personal Lubricant rather than coconut oil from the grocery aisles.
Read More: Discover the pros and cons of Coconut Oil for Vaginal Dryness.
3. Work on Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
Have tight or tender pelvic floor muscles?
You may experience painful sex.
Try at-home pelvic floor exercises like kegels, heel slides, and marches to relax your pelvic floor muscles.
Sometimes, visiting a specialist for pelvic floor physical therapy may be necessary to help you loosen or strengthen your muscles.
As part of pelvic floor physical therapy, you may also learn about vaginal dilation exercises using a lubricated dilator. This will help stretch your tissues and keep your vagina from becoming too narrow.
4. Try a Vaginal Lubricant
A vaginal lubricant is possibly the easiest way to alleviate painful intercourse after menopause.
Vaginal lubricants help make your vaginal canal and vulva slippery so you avoid unpleasant friction, chafing, or injuries during sex.
There are three main kinds of lube:
A. Oil-Based Lubricant
Oil-based lube is silky, long-lasting, and toy-safe.
However, oil can cause latex condoms to deteriorate and break. Stay safe by pairing this lube with polyurethane (latex-free) condoms instead.
1. Coconu Oil-Based Personal Lubricant
Want something even more relaxing?
2. Coconu Hemp-Infused Body Oil
It’s designed for internal and external use, perfect for sensual massages and any type of play.
B. Water-Based Lubricant
Water-based lubricant is super handy because it’s compatible with all condoms and toys. The slight trade-off is it tends to be less long-lasting, so you may need to reapply more frequently.
Coconu Water-Based Personal Lubricant
It’s also free of harsh ingredients like alcohol, parabens, petroleum, fragrances, phylates, gluten, and dye. So it’s gentle and won’t irritate your vagina.
It’s designed to mimic your natural vaginal lubrication and pH, doubling as a lube and vaginal moisturizer. This means it helps to fight dryness and discomfort in the heat of the moment and the long term.
C. Silicone-Based Lubricant
Silicone lube is long-lasting but can stain your sheets and clothes. It’s compatible with all condom types but may deteriorate silicone sex toys.
Finding the right formula and brand of lube may require some trial and error, especially if it’s your first time experimenting with them.
A few words of caution:
- Use proper vaginal lubricants and avoid products like petroleum jelly (Vaseline), body lotion, or baby oil. These can irritate your skin and increase vaginal infections due to the harmful chemicals found in them.
- Before using your choice of lube, do a patch test on your wrist to check for allergies and skin sensitivities.
5. Work in Foreplay and Have More Sex
Let's be real – sometimes, getting in the mood takes a while.
Yes, a vaginal lubricant can help you in the wetness department. But being turned on creates the blood flow and elasticity that makes sex feel amazing rather than painful.
Whether your sexual activity is solo or partnered, consider the actions that turn you on and take your time to get warmed up.
Start with lots of touching, kissing, oral sex, or whatever gets you going before rushing into penetration.
Using a vibrator can also increase pelvic blood flow, adding more moisture to your vagina.
Reaching menopause doesn’t mean you have to suppress your sex drive. In fact, regular sexual activity (with a partner or on your own) will help maintain your vaginal health.
Read More: If you want to spice things up with toys, look into the 8 Best Lubes For Sex Toys.
6. Seek Help From a Counselor or Sex Therapist
Stress and anxiety can adversely affect your sex life.
It can put you in “survival mode” and seriously dampen your sex drive, making it harder to become aroused.
But look: arousal is crucial for mind-blowing, pain-free sex.
If you’re dealing with emotional issues that impact your sexual health, a counselor or sex therapist can help guide you through it.
Sex therapy can improve your communication about anxiety, sex drive, and body image with your significant other. It can also help you learn how to relax and enjoy intimate moments more.
7. Try Different Sex Positions
Less elasticity in your vaginal canal may make penetration more difficult in certain positions.
For example, you may experience much deeper penetration in doggy style than if you were both lying on your sides.
Experiment with different positions to determine what works for you and your partner.
Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
8. Use Heating and Cooling Pads
If you've ever experienced sexual pain, you know it can stick with you even after the moment has passed.
And we get it. Sometimes there isn’t time to think about sexual pain prevention.
So what do you do?
You may find it soothing to apply a heating pad or ice pack to your vagina after sex. Just make sure it’s clean and applied over your underwear so it won’t give you an infection, burns, or frostbite (Yikes.)
Next time, don’t skip the lube.
9. Communicate When You’re in Pain
With partnered sex, communication is vital.
Be vocal about your comfort during sexual intercourse. Tell your S.O. when you need more time, more lube, or a different position.
You may feel awkward about this initially, but you deserve good sex!
And painful sex can be unsafe sex, especially if it causes wounds that can become a home for bacteria and infections.
Read More: If communication makes you nervous, here are our best Tips to Talk About Sex With Your Partner.
10. Give Up Smoking
This may surprise you, but smoking nicotine products can affect your estrogen hormone levels and worsen vaginal dryness.
But, when you stop smoking, your sex drive increases and estrogen can return to its new normal.
We know it’s difficult to quit.
But a toe-curling sex sesh is sure to keep your mind off the cravings!
Now, while you can often take at-home steps to prevent painful intercourse, sometimes a trip to your doctor may be necessary. Let’s go over what to expect.
When to See a Doctor About Painful Sex After Menopause
See a doctor if you notice vaginal symptoms like:
- Persistent vaginal pain that lingers after sex.
- Lubes and vaginal moisturizers don’t seem to help.
- Bleeding, unusual odors, or odd discharge.
But it’s best to make a doctor’s appointment when you first start experiencing symptoms of the genitourinary syndrome of menopause and painful sex.
According to the North American Menopause Society, women approaching menopause may experience:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Lack of vaginal lubrication
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood swings
This can all happen years before you actually hit menopause, which is marked by your last period.
Early on, your doctor can tell you if the problem is estrogen-related and walk you through a suitable treatment option. They can also rule out more serious vaginal health problems.
Here are a few common treatments for the menopausal symptom of dyspareunia:
Oral Estrogen: This is a form of hormone replacement therapy where you’re prescribed estrogen pills to boost your estrogen level.
Topical/ Inserted Estrogen: You can also boost your estrogen level with treatments like topical vaginal estrogen cream or an insertable flexible estrogen ring.
A vaginal estrogen suppository is another method. This releases a hormone called DHEA, which converts into testosterone or estrogen in the body.
Non-Hormonal Treatments: Since not all menopausal women and vagina-havers can have estrogen-based hormone therapy, there is a non-hormonal treatment option. Your doctor can prescribe Ospemifene – a medication that mimics the effects of estrogen.
- Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation: MonaLisa Touch® (a trademark of DEKA) is a laser therapy used to treat vaginal atrophy and vaginal dryness by helping the cells in your vaginal tissue to regenerate.
If you have battled cancer, particularly breast cancer, estrogen hormone replacement therapy can increase the risk of cancer recurring. So, speaking to your doctor before trying any hormone therapy is crucial.
10+ Other Reasons Sex Can Be Painful
If you’re experiencing vaginal pain during intercourse, it may not necessarily be related (only) to your menopause.
Here’s a list of other conditions that can cause painful sex:
- Vulvodynia: You feel stinging or burning around the vulva without any obvious cause like sores or tears.
Vestibulodynia: The vestibule (that’s where your vulva meets the vaginal canal) hurts to touch or penetrate.
Vaginismus: This is when your muscles tighten during sex, making penetration painful (often resulting from anxiety or trauma).
Cystitis: Your bladder becomes inflamed, making sex painful. Why? The bladder is close to the vagina.
Endometriosis: Tissue from your uterus (womb) grows where it shouldn’t, causing extreme pelvic pain and painful sex.
Uterine Fibroids: These are non-cancerous growths that form in your uterus and put pressure on your vagina during sex, which can be pretty painful.
Scar Tissue: Scarring from pelvic surgeries, childbirth, endometriosis, and other conditions can result in pelvic pain and painful sex.
Pelvic Radiation Treatments: Painful intercourse can be a side-effect of this cancer treatment.
Infections: Symptoms of bacterial or sexually transmitted infections can make sex uncomfortable.
- Skin Conditions: Conditions that cause itchy or painful skin (like eczema or lichen sclerosis) can also irritate your sensitive vaginal tissue during sex.
|Read More: Check out this comprehensive list of 15 Possible Reasons Your Vagina Hurts After Sex (+ FIxes).|
Don’t Give Up on Great Sex
Although menopause is a natural aspect of aging, your sexual health should remain top of mind.
It’s vital to know that you don’t have to suffer through painful intercourse after menopause.
Many medical treatments and at-home lifestyle changes can help you get it on without discomfort.
No matter which route you take, a good lube is essential.
Ready to experiment with high-quality, all-natural lube?
Try our Coconu Intimacy Gift Set, which contains one bottle each of our oil-based, hemp-infused, and water-based lubes.