Slow sex and menopause

by | Feb 7, 2024


My body is changing. Over a year ago, I started experiencing pain during love making which I’d never experienced pain before. It wasn’t extreme but enough that I wanted to stop.

I didn’t understand it at first because there was nothing happening that I could connect it to and I hadn’t linked it to menopausal changes and it took me quite a while to join the dots.

I’d hardly bled in three years and at the time was perimenopausal (I am now postmenopausal). I had noticed that I was getting a little dryer on the outside and feeling like I needed the loo a little more and I sometimes get this sensation where I would feel like I need to go but I didn’t and it was like the ‘go to the loo’ button was switched on and it wouldn’t switch off and this was especially at night so it was affecting my sleep more than anything.

After a while and some research, I discovered that this collection of symptoms called Genitourinary Syndrome (GSM). I found out it has only been recently changed from the horrendous name of Vagina Atrophy (VA).

VA was such a disempowering name (which I will from now on never repeat!!). Atrophy literally means to collapse. Using that word I feel like I’m programming that into my system and I refuse to do that.

Before I knew the name had changed to GSM I had renamed VA to ‘vagina trophying’ – visualising that vaginas are these incredible trophies that have usually gone through SO much in life – pleasure, pain, challenges and miracles, bleeding, childbirth, infertility, miscarriages, and SO much more. They need loving, celebrating, honouring and taking care of.

It’s really common – Apparently around 50% of women experience symptoms of GSM where the walls of the vagina become thinner due to decreasing oestrogen.

The symptoms can include vaginal discomfort or soreness, burning sensation, itching and bleeding. It can also lead to urinary tract issues like recurrent cystitis. For some women the symptoms are so debilitating it affects their ability to sleep, to exercise and to work.

In my twenty years of being in workshops, trainings and sitting in women’s circles GSM is rarely mentioned. It has NEVER been talked about in all the trainings I have done which I find astonishing.

When I had a small prolapse a few years ago and did so much research about it as part of my healing journey, even though prolapses are far too common (I have read that up to 50% of women who have had children have some level of prolapse!!!), I could see that no-one was talking about it, though this has started to change.

As I started sharing my experience of prolapse, women approached me privately with so many stories, wrapped up in huge amounts of shame, stories of being told by doctors nothing is wrong when they some are living with debilitating symptoms every single day.  Again in all my trainings, it was NEVER mentioned.

I am partly writing this post as we need to be talking about these things more and this needs to be covered more in trainings to bring more awareness.

I don’t believe you can run a training about female pleasure without at least educating students about the many things that women might be going through or could experience. From prolapse to GSM they deeply affect a women’s relationship to her body, how she feels about herself, her pleasure and to intimacy.

So many women experiencing GSM prolapse etc feel such shame and fear (I know I did) and these are pivotal moments where intimacy can shut down in relationships and have huge knock on affects and so much could be avoided through good information, support etc

There is so much poor (and frightening) information out there and it always takes me a lot of research to find information that gives hope and doesn’t immediately turn to medicines or surgeries (though I recognise these do have their place).

There is a lot that can be done to clear or reduce symptoms and often time is a real issue. The longer you leave something the worse it can get and research shows that it can take women years to reach out and get support and I know that can be for a range factors including fear, shame, or having bad experiences at previous medical appointments.

Experiencing pain was scary. I was wondering, is this it is it? Is it going to get worse? Does this mean no more penetration? Naturally all sorts of outcomes went through my mind. I felt shame from ‘doing all this work’ and this happening to me.

It was incredibly magical timing that I had booked a love making retreat with my partner the year before and the retreat happened literally a few days after crossing the threshold into menopause.

I was also nervous about the retreat. It felt like a cosmic joke that I had wanted to go to this retreat for a decade and I finally get there and I might not be able to make love!! Graeme and I have always practiced relaxed love making and I had found it helpful with the pain – pausing, going slowly, taking time but there was a part of me that was fearful of the pain and I had got into a loop with it.

The retreat was a week to really drop deeply into the practices. With the spacious to really witness what was happening in my body and mind, I was able to relax in more subtler ways and the pain literally disappeared! What I really needed was time for my body to open and relax. I was able to let go of the fear. It still shows up from time to time but I know it is just that.

Through this experience I saw the power of everything I teach and practice on a whole new level. Now love making has got even more relaxed and more magical and we continue to deepen into the practices. And in this space, there is still passion but it has a different quality to it, it’s a relaxed passion rooted in deep love.

I am still on a journey with this exploring how to keep my vagina as vibrant and healthy as possible. Taking regular sea buckthorn, specific herbal teas, self massage and love making and I will write more in the future.

It’s so important to talk about these things. To reach out and get support. To know that if you experiencing anything like this, you are not alone. If you need support with your sex and intimate life, do get in touch.

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