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Oh, Oh, Oh, Owwww! What to Do About Painful Sex

There are ways to make sure that if you scream in bed, it's for the right reasons. NextTribe's guide to the wonderful world of lube and other tricks.

So this is how menopausal sex used to go for my husband and me. We’d be in the heat of the moment and suddenly I’d cry out, “Ouch!”

My poor sweet husband’s eyes would get wide and panicky.

“That feels like road rash all up inside there, use more lubrication, please…” My husband would administer about half the bottle of Astroglide in the hope that I would remember how much I love having sex with him. No such luck. It just hurt.

Finally, he’d had enough. “Damn. I’m going to research the best lubrication on the planet and then order a case,” he said. My husband is like that—super kind and very motivated when it comes to getting his (our) needs met.

Menopause and Painful Sex

Menopause is the culprit for all kinds of changes that can plague a woman and, by extension, her partner. Sleep loss, brain fog, mood shifts, hot flashes, and, of course, a thinning of the vaginal wall—which causes the dreaded “sandpaper sex.”

This can be a good reason for changing things up instead of doing the same stale moves.

You’d think that bleeding monthly, growing babies in our uterus, giving birth, and managing all the details that accompany these gigantic events would be enough responsibility for women. More than enough. But then when you are finally free of all that, free again to enjoy time with your husband, along comes a cruel joke: menopause.

Many of my friends are in the same position (ha ha). For one friend, sex hurts so much she has refused her husband’s advances for months because of tears in her vaginal wall. This has prompted him to suggest he go to another source for sex. When I heard this, I yelled at her. “You go home right now and give that man a blow job, for God’s sake.” When I asked another friend if sex was painful, she said, ”I don’t know. We don’t do it any more.”

Read More: “Help! I Don’t Want to Have Sex With My Husband”

The Case of the Disappearing Libido

That’s another consequence of menopause—lagging libido. Menopause happens because the ovaries create less estrogen and progesterone, which can diminish a woman’s sex drive. For me, it’s like I simply forget about sex. The thrill and desire for it just doesn’t hit my radar the way it used to. This reality for me is thankfully counterbalanced by my new lack of concern about pregnancy, a blessed absence of monthly bleeding, and a new sassy, irreverent attitude in our sex life. It’s ridiculously refreshing. I feel free.

It’s important to embrace the change you’re going through. Work with what you’ve got. Don’t deny it or hide it. This can be a good reason for changing things up instead of doing the same stale moves. Now is the time to be bolder about asking for what you want (be specific, bossy, and maybe even selfish) and to experiment with new enlivening turn-ons. How about watching tasteful soft porn (Outlander will probably do the trick), or shopping together, either online or at your local sex toy shop, as a type of foreplay?

Thanks to this newfound approach and the cases of Penchant Premium lubricant we store in our garage, we still have wonderful sex; it’s just different than it was before menopause. We take our time; we play and chat more. Morning sex is more common (no kids at home!) and foreplay is prolonged (more lube!), and sometimes it turns into wrestling matches or fits of laughter. Now when I cry out during sex, it’s almost always for the good reason.

Lube it Up

It’s time to get to know your lubricants. They’re essential for good sex now because estrogen levels dip during menopause, causing your natural lubrication to decrease.

The best lubricant is the one that works for you. Here are the three basic types.

Water based

These are considered the least problematic for sensitive skin. They clean up easily and don’t stain or linger afterward. However, the water-based products can become sticky after a while and might actually create friction. This is the opposite of what you want. Also, check for parabens (used as a preservative) in the ingredients list because they can irritate the skin. Examples of water-based products are: Astroglide, Lulu Lube, Hello Sailor Lube, Shibari, and KY Jelly.

Read More: Lustless at Midlife. A Marriage Explored. 

Oil based

These are an option if you have no need for condoms. Because the oil in the lube will disintegrate the latex, you should never use oil-based lube with a condom.  Also, oil based lube lingers on sensitive skin, and it can create an environment where bacteria can multiply more easily.  Examples of oil-based products are: coconut oil, baby oil, mineral oil, hand creams, and Vaseline.

Silicone based

These products last longer than water-based lubes and can be used with latex. The silicone has a unique slipperiness that many people prefer. This type of lube can be used around water (think shower or hot tub) and is long lasting. Silicone products cannot be used with silicone sex toys (the one down side!) because the two silicone products combined will begin to break down the silicone toy. Examples of silicone-based lube are: Wet Platinum, Pjur, and Penchant Premium (my personal favorite).

Bummer Alert

There is a chance that none of these lubes will do the trick. If this happens, it’s time to chat with your ObGyn about localized estrogen therapy like Estrace. Inserted rings, creams, or tablets can offer a rejuvenation of the vaginal wall that will increase pleasure and put an end to “rough” sex.

By Stacey Tompkins


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