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Sexual Desire

Libido Through the Years: What You Need to Know in Your 40s

by Nathalie Marquez Courtney

When it comes to sex drive, it seems like your 40s give with one hand and take with the other. In some respects, it could be the absolute best time of your life, sexually speaking: you’re more likely to know your body and what you enjoy, often kids are older and more independent and the harried pace associated with your 30s has (hopefully) mellowed somewhat.

However, many women in their 40s find that as their hormones begin to shift in preparation for menopause all sorts of changes can occur, and these can have a dramatic impact on your sex drive.

We explore what you can expect from your libido in your 40s and how to tackle any issues you might encounter.

Libido in your 40s: what to expect

“For a lot of women, their 40s can be a really special time to own their sexuality,” says Rosy Founder and CEO Dr. Lyndsey Harper. “I know a lot of patients in their 40s who’ve come to this new spot where they’re done with their kids – many of them are finished with the crazy changes of pregnancy and birth – and any kids they do have are no longer infants or toddlers.”

Why as my libido increased?

Your 40s can be a great time for your sex life because, Dr Harper explains, you’re truly comfortable with your body for possibly the first time.”You’re not spending a lot of time worrying about whether you’re having enough sex or about your thighs or whatever you used worry about,” says Dr. Harper. “Many women in their 40s have gotten over that and have come to a place where they truly have confidence.”

What are the signs of perimenopause?

Some serious hormonal changes begin to kick in during your 40s. Although the average age of menopause is 51, perimenopause (sometimes called ‘menopause transition’) can begin several years earlier, even in your late 30s in some cases.

As your hormones start to change, you might notice that your periods become more irregular. And though symptoms can vary widely from woman to woman, some other common, completely normal signs that you may be experiencing perimenopause include breast tenderness, hot flashes and insomnia. “These physical effects can be really disruptive to our sex lives,” says Dr. Harper.

“Perimenopause can be a wild ride,” continues Dr. Harper. “Some people don’t have a lot of problems, but a lot of women will experience changes in their mood. They might start to notice increased anxiety and agitation, not only with their coworkers, but also with their partners and maybe their children.”

“It can be kind of like puberty,” Dr. Harper says. Think back to when you were 12 or 13 and what a crazy dramatic time it was, unsure of why you felt how you did and not feeling in full control of your body – perimenopause can be a bit like that. “It can feel like you’ve lost sense of who you are and can really throw women into a tailspin in a lot of ways.”

While symptoms of perimenopause are rarely dramatic enough to warrant medical intervention, it can be a confusing and distressing time. Here are a few things that can help:

3 ways to support your sex drive in your 40s

  1. Stay in touch with your body: At this point in your life, chances are you’ve gotten used to the ebb and flow of your body and your period cycles. Be alert for any changes or patterns – consider keeping a journal and jotting down any instances of things like insomnia, irregular periods, increased anxiety or hot flashes.
  2. Don’t be afraid of new tools: During late perimenopause, falling estrogen levels can lead to vaginal dryness, which in turn can make sex uncomfortable and drastically reduce your sex drive. The right lubricant can provide instant relief to discomfort associated with dryness, so don’t be afraid to ask your gynecologist for some recommendations.
  3. Be gentle on yourself: Even if your symptoms are relatively mild, the sheer unpredictability of perimenopause, the feeling that your body is changing, and the finality of the end of fertility can be stressful and make you more prone to anxiety or irritability. Try to make time for some genuine joy-giving self-care, whether that’s exercise, mediation or even more downtime spent recharging.

Though often not as widely discussed, these shifts are all a normal part of many women’s 40s, so know that you’re not alone, and, if in doubt, chat with your gynecologist.

Nathalie Marquez Courtney is a freelance photographer, editor, and writer from Dublin, Ireland. Her background is in editorial magazine publishing and works shooting talented photos for some of Ireland’s best and most loved publications.