Sexual Health In Your 20s, 30s and Beyond
We know to take care of our physical and mental health before we there is an issue, but we sometimes forget to think about our sexual health until something comes up. We asked Dr. Mary Jane Minkin what we should keep in mind regarding our sexual health as we grow older.
What are the major sexual health issues for women in their 20s? 30s? 40s?
Certainly relationship issues are pertinent at all ages. In the 20s, many women have not settled down with one partner; as they get older, then many women will have settled into longer term relationships.
One thing I certainly encourage women who are not in a mutually monogamous situation is to always practice safe sex; not only to protect against pregnancy, but to use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. So, for example, many young women today are vaccinated against HPV, but that doesn't protect against chlamydia, gonorrhea--I can go on and on!
What is a normal sex drive for women in their 20s? 30s? 40s?
It's hard to define what is normal for sex drive. If two people are involved, I always say the most important thing for the relationship is to keep the sex drives matched. If both partners are happy having sex once a week, great, as long as both are happy. If both are happy having sex every day, great. The problem is when one partner is much more interested than the other. And then communication is key--what do both people want? and they need to talk about it.
As women get older, they tend to have more responsibilities, which take time (like kids, aging parents, or more job responsibilities)m so what most couples really need to do is to carve out some special time for them. The concept of "date night" is very helpful--special reserved time for the couple.
What some changes that most women expect as they age?
Of course health issues can be a problem as well, and we do get more of these as we age. Not only can a health issue be a problem, but so can the therapy for the problem, For example, depression can lead to decreased desire-and so can many of the medications,such as SSRI anti depressants. Many people with arthritis have problems with certain sexual positions-so couples need to be creative and find more comfortable positions-be creative!
Is there anything women can do to prepare for or delay such changes?
If problems are existing, do speak with your health care provider-primary care or gynecological-for advice. And they can refer you to a therapist if needed.
So how to take care of some of these issues on your own? Most importantly, stay in the best physical shape you can-exercise regularly-it's good to stay fit and healthy-trying to avoid medical illnesses.
What are some ways to increase sexual desire and enhance intimacy?
Of course, menopausal symptoms can start in the 40s, even in the late 30s for some women (please see my website madameovary.com for advice) and many women do experience vaginal dryness with perimenopause. So if you do start feeling vaginal dryness and discomfort with sex, do try something like Replens. It is available over the counter at most pharmacies, and it is a long-acting vaginal moisturizer that you insert into the vagina two or three times a week and can help make you much more comfortable.
Another great way to increase intimacy for couples and to increase sexual desire is with a product called Fiera. This product is the first-of-its-kind woman's personal care device, developed with an OB/GYN for couples to enhance physical arousal and jump start the sex drive naturally. This tiny, discreet, hands-free device encourages blood flow to the clitoris, and provides direct stimulation, encouraging lubrication, without pills or hormones.
And again, if problems do develop, do not hesitate to speak with your provider.
Mary Jane Minkin, MD is a practicing gynecologist, with a special interest in menopause. She is a North American Menopause Society Certified Menopause Clinician as well as the co-director of the Sexuality, Intimacy and Menopause for Cancer Survivors program at the Smilow Cancer Center.
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