Sex, Myths and The Menopause

Sex, Myths and The Menopause

I’m so proud to have been part of Davina McCall “Sex, Myths and the Menopause” programme on Channel 4.

We chatted about sex, sex toys, orgasms, why ingredients matter and a goat was mentioned at some point! It was just brilliant and Davina was so funny. We both want to dispel the myth that your sex life will stop or it just will not feel as good during and post menopause.

For many, sex can be even better because they finally discover what works for them and for anyone who find sex less than satisfying or just avoids it, we have plenty of practical help, advice and great sex toys, lubricants and vaginal moisturisers to help you enjoy pleasurable sex in whatever you want to or are able to.

If you’re happy that you no longer have to have sex, that’s fine, I am here to help those who like sex and want to continue enjoying it.

Look after your Intimate health

People really care about what they eat, use on their skin, body and hair yet no thought to what they use inside their vagina or on their vulva despite it being the most sensitive and absorbent part of your body!

Good intimate health goes hand in hand with our sexual pleasure, especially during and post menopause because the depleting oestrogen impacts upon our vagina and bladder health leading to vaginal dryness, atrophy, irritation, soreness, painful sex and recurrent infections which include thrush and bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections or cystitis.

Yet intimate health issues are rarely discussed because people are too embarrassed to even use the word vagina and vulva, seek medical advice or assume it is all part of menopause and there is nothing they can do. Many who do experience sexual issues buy feminine hygiene products, vaginal moisturisers, washes, douches, creams, lotions and potions to try to ease symptoms yet the vast majority of these products are all manufactured with irritating ingredients that do more harm than good, exacerbate or are ineffective in easing symptoms. Often people reach for completely unsuitable products in their kitchen or bathroom cupboards never created for intimate use. Just because it’s slippery doesn’t mean you can use it for sex or as a moisturiser!

Well known brands and high street retailers have jumped on this bandwagon targeting the menopause community because they know people are too embarrassed to talk to their GP about that intimate itch, vulval soreness or unpleasant discharge yet many products cause, exacerbate or even mask your symptoms.

Thrush, often problematic in menopause due to the depleting oestrogen is the third most googled term because it is a huge issue for millions of vagina and vulva owners ( glycerin in so many intimate products causes thrush!). It is too easy to buy treatment over the counter to treat what you may think is thrush but could be a different infection that requires antibiotics such as bacterial vaginosis ( which has a fishy smelling discharge) or a genital skin issue such as Lichens Sclerosus ( LS), an issue that can occur at any time but often in midlife which is managed with topical steroids, using thrush treatments will only exacerbate LS, not help it.

Being passionate about intimate health, including what you use inside your vagina and on your vulva I know finding the right regime for your intimate health can transform your sexual pleasure.

If you experience vaginal dryness, tightness, shrinking, soreness, itching, recurrent infections talk to your GP who can examine you, make the correct diagnosis, prescribe the right treatment be that local oestrogen ( more below), antifungal thrush treatment, antibiotics for bacterial vaginosis or topical steroids for gential skin conditions.

Ditch any washes, bubble bath, shower gels, bath bombs and other intimate hygiene products, just wash with water. If you do feel the need to wash with a product, ask your GP to prescribe a gentle emollient.

Use Good Lube!

Using a sexual lubricant isn’t just for fixing vaginal dryness, it can transform your sexual pleasure and prolong your sex play whatever your age, especially when you find a really good one.

Often people with a vagina and their partners don’t think they should need to use a lube, they should be instantly wet when touched yet our natural lubrication can be affected whatever our age which is why lube is for anyone of any age. Many people are put off using lubes because they have experienced irritation or an infection caused by the ingredients and assume all lubes are the same.

I get frustrated when people say they use the cheapest brand available or their GP or healthcare professional has recommended it especially those going through menopause or post cancer treatment! So many people check the ingredients and spend plenty of money on their skin care regime and haircare products yet no thought to what they’re using on their vulva or inside their vagina, the most highly sensitive and absorbant part of their body.

The vast majority of sexual lubricants contain irritating ingredients including glycerin which can cause thrush, especially for those who are prone to it and it is a common issue during and post menopause. Propylene glycol is a well known irritant, not just for vulvas and vaginas but on penises and inside anuses too. This is often what causes the stinging when people first use a lube. Parabens are preservatives used in so many products including those designed for intimate use yet they are hormone disruptors so are best to avoid. Alcohol is very drying to the skin and even more so to the delicate tissues of our vagina and vulva. Dyes, perfumes and glitter are often included, none of which are beneficial to your vagina or vulva health. Many brands use different ingredient descriptions to conceal what their product contains so you have no idea what is in it. My view is if you don’t know what an ingredient is, don’t buy it or use it.

The same goes for lubricated condoms, often people think they have a condom allergy but they are actually allergic to the lubricant ingredients or the ingredients in the lube they’re using with the condom ( important advice about condom use below). Irritation can occur if the condom isn’t the right fit too.

Just because a product is slippery doesn’t mean it’s suitable for sex but we frequently hear about kitchen and bathroom cupboard products being used despite having never been designed for sexual use, many contain irritating ingredients and can cause infections, some will also damage sex toys and condoms too. Stick to eating your vegetable oils and just use your face, body, and hand creams for the body parts they were designed for!

What Lube should I choose?

Water based lubricants are the closest to your own natural lubrication, they are easy to wash off, can be used for any sexual activity, used with any sex toy material including silicone toys and are condom compatible. Our lubricants are pH balanced, don’t leave any residue and can be reactivated during sex play with a little water if they begin to dry out

“Wish I had discovered Sutil Luxe years ago… really nice and will definitely buy again. It was so good, both me and my husband overslept this morning!”

SUTIL LUXE is a silky smooth water-based lubricant that moisturises, nourishes and soothes our most intimate areas, as well as lubricating for sexual pleasure. Feeling like a silicone lubricant without the silicone, this fabulous water based lubricant gently cushions and glides, blending seamlessly with your own natural lubrication during sex. Being water based it is easy to wash off too.

Free from irritating ingredients and hormone free it is perfect for anyone, including those not able to have hormone replacement therapy and post cancer treatment, not only as a sexual lubricant but also as a vaginal moisturiser and can be used with any sex toy or dilator.

Made with eco certified ingredients SUTIL is committed to creating natural and organic cosmetics that are not only great for your skin, but also derived from renewable resources and manufactured using environmentally friendly processes. Even the sleek tube is biodegradable.

We also sell YES water based lubricant because it is organic, free from irritating ingredients, easy to wash off, safe to use for all sexual activities, pH balanced to that of the vagina flora, ree from any smell, taste, colour and are non-staining.

Water based lubricants can also be used during anal play. YES have created YESBUT organic anal lubricant, specifically balanced to the pH of the anus which is different to the pH of the vagina, offering you a completely natural way to enjoy pleasurable anal sex with a partner or suitable sex toy. SUTIL Rich is perfect for anal play as it is thicker and longer lasting because it feels like a silicone lubricant.

Oil based lubricant is longer lasting but are not suitable for use with latex condoms. Don’t use oil based products that have never been designed for sexual use as they will destroy condoms and your vagina and anal health.

Keep vegetable oils for your salad, baby oil for your body and petroleum jelly for your lips! If you’re prone to thrush, just use coconut oil in your cooking or on your skin.

YES Oil Based Lubricant is plant based, free from any irritating ingredients, has a much thicker consistency, suitable for water play, great for anal play, highly moisturising to the skin and can be used with water based lubricant to create a Double Glide effect. It can also be used to protect the delicate tissue of the vulva if you experience dryness, soreness or feel unconfortable and is great to use when swimming in chlorinated or sea water whoch many cause irritatation.

If you want a longer lasting lube that is condom compatible, SUTIL Rich is ideal. Designed with a pH suitable for both anal and vaginal use, the new “Rich” formulation has enhanced viscosity to ease anal penetration and soothe dry, delicate tissues.

SUTIL Rich contains small amounts of Horny Goat Weed — a herbal aphrodisiac — that is added, along with Siberian Ginseng and Jujube nut. Traditionally these herbs are used to increase strength, energy, stamina and vitality, but they also help to boost immune functions and have natural antibiotic and antiseptic properties to fight infection. Horny Goat Weed is also a vasodilator, which promotes blood flow and increases natural lubrication.

Depending on your sensitivity, you may feel a warm, slightly tingly sensation when using SUTIL Rich and if you are new to SUTIL we would recommend trying SUTIL Luxe first (or trying both – we have 10ml testers of both available).

Moisturise your Vagina and Vulva? Are you mad?

Do you have a daily skin care regime? Moisturise your body after a bath or shower? Really care about what you eat? Spend lots of money on your face creams? Then include your intimate health too.

The tissues of your vulva and vagina age like the rest of your body and need TLC to keep them happy and healthy so you can keep enjoying great sex. As we age the depleting oestrogen in the tissues of the vulva and vagina can make them feel less well lubricated and dry, they can shrink leading to vaginal tightness, making sex play, smear tests and pelvic examinations uncomfortable or painful. They can become irritated, itchy, sore and you may experience infections such as thrush and bacterial vaginosis.

Trans men and non binary people who use testosterone can really benefit from using a good hormone free vagina moisturiser to ease any vaginal symptoms. I’ve included Queer Menopause below, an excellent resource for LGBTQIA+ and Menopause.

So what should you use to moisturise your vulva and vagina? Ingredients matter when it comes to your intimate health, you need to avoid irritating ingredients widely used in some very well known vaginal moisturisers, even on prescription and high street own brands which include glycerin, glycols, parabens, perfumes, dyes, alcohol and petroleum jelly.

I personally have a regime for my vagina and vulva that I recommend to those I advise which includes using YESVM x 2 weekly, local eostrogen x 3 weekly, Sutil Luxe or Rich or YES oil based lube for any sex play, I only wash this area with water, I never use shower gels, bath bombs, intimate washes, wipes or sprays.

If you spend £££ on your skin care or body care regime think about the products you buy and use for intimate health and sex play. Grabbing the cheapest product from the shelf or taking that celebrity /influencer recommendation may leave you with irritation or even an infection. If your GP prescribes or recommends a vaginal moisturiser, ask them what the ingredients are, just because it’s on prescription doesn’t always mean it’s good for your intimate health!

Become an ingredients detective, check the label and moisturise your vulva and vagina for good intimate health and pleasurable sex.

Local oestrogen can transform your sex life

Using local oestrogen can be a game changer when it comes to enjoying pleasurable sex and preventing genitourinary issues. Many people only start using local oestrogen when they have issues yet it can prevent many issues from happening. Local oestrogen which comes in pessaries, cream and ring pessaries is absorbed in the vagina, vulva and bladder replacing the depleting oestrogen to keep the tissues flexible, promote lubrication and prevent infections and irritation. The vast majority of people with a vulva and vagina can use local oestrogen so speak to your GP or a menopause expert. Some people choose not to use it, others don’t know what it is and some people may not be able to use it. For clinical evidenced based information take a look at the NICE Menopause guidelines and the excellent menopause medical and healthcare professionals and resources listed below.

I personally use pessaries that I pop inside my vagina x 3 weekly and I have to say it has transformed my vagina and bladder health in addition to making sex feel even more pleasurable.

I want my libido back!

Low or loss of libido is a common issue many people experience during and post menopause yet there are many reasons why your libido may be missing in action. Taking hormone replacement therapy can help including testosterone so speak to your GP and take a look at the useful resources below.

Partners with a vulva and vagina may be experiencing a completely different range of symptoms to you which may be affecting their libido, so make sure you both seek medical advice.

People with a penis also struggle with low libido for a variety of reasons and this can impact upon your libido if your partner is reluctant to have sex or is unable to get or maintain an erection.

Low hormonal levels aren’t just the only reason your libido is low, many of us lead busy lives, looking after children, caring for elderly parents and holding down a job, no wonder we don’t feel like sex when we drop into bed at the end of the day.

Are you struggling with vaginal dryness, painful sex or recurrent infections? As mentioned above, use a good vaginal moisturiser and a good sexual lubricant to ease vaginal dryness, try popping lube on before you start any sex play, make it part of your sex play, you can put it on a sex toy to apply it, get your partner to gently and slowly massage it onto your clitoris and vulva, such a great way to help you become aroused.

Is sex painful? It may be caused by a lack of lubrication or you may be experiencing vagina atrophy, whereby the tissues of the vagina and vulva shrink, become less lubricated causing them to feel sore, less flexible, they may itch, burn, sting, the tissue can split and become inflamed. Some people can experience a watery discharge so assume they don’t have vaginal dryness but this is a symptom of vaginal atrophy.The vagina can also become tighter so using local oestrogen in combination with a good vaginal moisturiser and sexual lubricants can really help. Using a slim vibrator, dildo or dilators can help stretch the vagina to make penetrative sex feel more pleasurable if that is how you enjoy sex. Explore other ways to enjoy sex beyond penetration if it feels too painful or uncomfortable.

Are you sleep deprived? Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to boost our health and ­wellbeing, allowing our bodies the chance to replace and repair cells, to keep us healthy. Sleep disturbance is a common symptom for women during the menopause and beyond, which in turn, may lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and depression. Night time sweats can make it difficult and uncomfortable to sleep. Research published in January 2017 in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) found that disturbed sleep also impacted upon levels of sexual satisfaction too. HRT can really help in addition to wearing thinner night attire, sleeping under a sheet and keeping a glass of water on the bedside cupboard can help. Also, avoid snoozing during the day to help you sleep longer at night.

It may be the sex has just become boring so look at ways in which you can spice it up by using good lubes and sex toys, talking to your partner, rethinking the way you enjoy sex, it doesn’t have to be a huge performance, sex is so much more than penetration if that’s the way in which you only have sex, quickie sex play ( you’ll need the lube for this) indulging in hotel room or spending the afternoon in bed is so much fun, giving each other a gorgeous orgasm, enjoying kissing and cuddling just like you did at the start of your relationship. Don’t let boredom prevent you for enjoying great sex.

Has your relationship changed? Are you no longer attracted to your partner? Are you struggling with your changing body and no longer love yourself? Do you find sex a chore? These all impact upon your libido so talk to your partner, you’ll find they love you just the way you are. If you want to lose weight and get fitter, why not join forces with your partner or friends and family to keep you motivated and for encouragement. Rethink the way you have sex, plan a date night, spend time together, go for a walk, enjoy dinner or a movie, trying something new together. If you feel your relationship has changed couples counselling and psychosexual therapy can help.

Masturbation is so good for you

When you think of sexual satisfaction, you probably think that it involves being in a relationship: but not every aspect of your sex life requires a partner. A study found that 60% of people with a clitoris and vagina masturbate but it still remains a taboo subject. Strict, cultural and religious upbringing and limited sex education all play a part in people believing that masturbation is dirty.

Yet masturbation is so good for your health and especially during menopause because it promotes the blood flow to the vagina and vulva and increases your natural lubrication. It boost your immunity, reduces stress, helps you sleep, eases pain, helps you to connect with a partner, increase your chance of enjoying an orgasm during penetrative sex, it connects you with your own sexuality, it’s safe so no risk of getting a sexual transmitted infection or pregnant, it’s free, hassle free, pleasurable and lots of fun!

Masturbation is so good for your physical and mental wellbeing many healthcare professionals would prescribed sex and masturbation if they could, including those we work with at Jo Divine!

Orgasms – Yes Yes Yes!

I cannot imagine my life without orgasms, they feel amazing! In fact, the older I’ve grown, the better my orgasms have become as I’ve discovered my elusive G-spot ( with a sex toy) and now I know where it is, I know exactly how to stimulate it and so does my husband!

Some people may find their orgasms feel less powerful or they struggle to have one but for many, they enjoy even better orgasms as they go through menopause and beyond. If you experience less than satisfactory orgasms or find they just disappear, invest in a skin safe sex toy, such as a clitoral stimulator, rabbit vibe The LELO Sona 2 , a sonic wave toy, is the “game changer” we chatted about in the programme.

If you fake your orgasm, stop, you’re not doing yourself or your partner any favours!

Orgasms offer so many health benefits and they’re free! From helping you to drift off to sleep, often a problem during menopause, to helping you look younger, relieving pain, reducing stress, promoting lubrication, boosting immunity, exercising your pelvic floor muscles and even helping you live longer, they also feel so pleasurable too.

Even if you find yourself unable to have an orgasm, the journey can feel just as pleasurable.

Sex toys – Everyone should own one

Did you know almost half the population own a sex toy? Do you? I believe everyone should own a sex toy especially if they’re menopausal. Sex toy design has moved on since the Rampant Rabbit ( made from jelly material) with the creation of innovatively and cleverly designed products with powerful motors , creative technology and skin safe materials. No one should use a jelly, latex or rubber toy.

From simple bullet vibrators to classic toys, rabbit vibrators with dual motors, anal toys and air pulse clitoral stimulators, there is such a wide range to choose for. Some of our sex toys are great for helping menopausal symptoms such as vaginal tightness, painful sex, decreased sexual sensation and to enjoy for non penetrative sex. Many toys are gender neutral and some don’t even look like a sex toy, I often advise people that you can use a bullet vibe on your clitoris, a partner’s clitoris or penis, on their perineum and testicles and nipples too, so versatile.

Playing with a sex toy is a great way to get warmed up, to boost your arousal or add into your sex play. We also have sex toys for people, with a penis and prostate too. Constriction rings are great to help maintain an erection whilst stimulating the clitoris so pleasure for you both.

Sex is so much more than penetration, many people enjoy sex in so many different ways, being creative and innovative with discovering different sexual sensations. You migh find you love to be spanked or be the spanker, you enjoy tapping into your dominant side or love giving and receiving oral sex, nothing is off the cards when it comes to expanding your sexual repetoire to discover what turns you on.

Our sex toys are so good they’re recommended by many healthcare professionals working in the NHS and private practice!

Do your pelvic floor exercises

Over time our pelvic floor muscles can become weaker so exercising your pelvic floor muscles correctly not only promotes continence but can also create stronger orgasms too. Pelvic floor muscles can also beome tight ( hypertonic) which can make any penetration feel uncomfortable or painful so you need to learn how to relax these muscles. If you are unsure about technique or think you have an issue, seek advice from a pelvic health physiotherapist, the experts in pelvic health who can assess your pelvic floor muscles and will teach you how to do the exercises.
Plevic floor exercises not only beenfit those with a vagina but als people with a penis to promote stronger erections too.

STIs don’t know your age

When people tell us they’re in a new relationship or dating again, which is great , we ask if they’re using condoms. Many just laugh, say I can’t get pregnant anymore, I’m menopausal or post menopausal and think we’re joking when we mention the need to use a condom!⁠ Same goes ofr dental dams too. Sexually transmitted infections don’t know your age or discriminate between whom they infect.

For some it is the first new sexual partner that they have had since their partner passed away, they’re divorced or separated and they didn’t need to use condoms with them. Yet the walls of the vagina become thinner and less well lubricated during menopause and post menopause due to the depleting oestrogen levels which can make them feel sore and dry. This can lead to tiny abrasions and inflammation during any form of vaginal penetration, increasing your risk of getting an STI.⁠ It’s important to ask partners to wear a condom or use a dental dam ( you can cut up a condom) and recognise the symptoms of an STI because urinary tract infections and genital skin changes, both very common during menopause can be misdiagnosed and may be an STI.

If you are sharing sex toys, pop a condom on the toy to prevent transmission of an STI.

Communication is key

This is so important because many couples slowly grow apart and give up on sex during menopause because they don’t understand what is happening and cannot talk to each other. Partners often think you no longer love them or find them attractive or cannot understand why you no longer want or enjoy sex. Talk to your partner, explain that sex feel painful or uncomfortable ( always stop if you feel any pain, painful sex is not pleasurable sex) you’re worried about getting yet another infection or irritation, your libido has gone awol, you constantly feel tired because your sleep is disturbed or you’re simply struggling with your physical or mental wellbeing.

If you continue to have relationships issues, talking to a psychosexual therapist or relationship therapist may help.

Now you’re armed with these practical tips, advice and product recommendations there’s no need to give up on your sex life, especially if you enjoy sex. After all, sex is meant to be noisy, messy, embarrassing, concensual, pleasurable and most of all fun, whatever your gender or sexual orientation.

Having found an intimate regime and fabulous products that work for me, I plan to continue enjoying great sex, just like our 95 year old customers at Jo Divine, and so can you!

Helpful Resources

We work with many of these amazing people, charities and support groups.

Dr Louise Newson
Newson Health
The Menopause Charity
Dr Hannah Short
The Daisy Network – charity for premature ovarian insufficiency
British Menopause Society
Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Menopause Support
Menopause Support for LGBTQIA
Trekstock
IAPMD
Mpowered Women
Latte Lounge
College of Sex and Relationship Therapists :https://www.cosrt.org.uk/
Womb Cancer Support: www.wombcancersupportuk.weebly.com
Eve Appeal: www.eveappeal.org.uk
Shine Cancer: www.shinecancersupport.org
Clic Sargeant: www.clicsargent.org.uk
Macmillan: www.macmillan.org.uk
GRACE (Gynae-Oncology Clinical Research and Excellence): www.grace-charity.org.uk
Pelvic Roar
Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecology Physiotherapy