"When we stop ovulating and having periods, both hormones drop - estrogen quite precipitously," explains Susan Doughty, a women's health nurse practitioner.
Susan founded the New England WomenCenter, which recently merged with Coastal Women's Health Care in Scarborough.
Our testosterone levels lower more gradually after menopause says Susan
, along with another hormone called DHEA, which converts to estrogen and testosterone.
A man's testosterone levels decrease with age, but much more gradually, which is why they are usually more interested in the sexual act than women.
And why there can be a lot of tension in some postmenopausal relationships.
When a woman comes into her
office with sex-related issues, Susan
says the first thing they talk about is the relationship with her
asks, "Is it intimate?
Is it trustworthy?
Is there any abuse or exploitation?
The second thing - is it comfortable?"
By comfortable, she
means does it hurt to have intercourse?
Estrogen triggers a natural lubricant and without it, the vagina becomes drier and less flexible.
Thankfully, there are solutions to the problem.
"We supply local estrogen to the vagina that stays put and doesn't get absorbed into the body," says Susan
Counseling may be appropriate, but if the relationship is strong and you're both willing to work together on the issues, Susan
suggests trying to make regular sexual contact a priority.
Put it on your calendar!
"Plan a time during the day when neither person is tired," she
"If that's the goal, then it can be a disappointment," says Susan
, "because sometimes the orgasm is elusive.
If you'd like to learn more about sex after menopause, Susan
suggests checking out the website MiddlesexMD.