One thing I have loved about being in my 40s, is the confidence it brings with it. And we all know that confidence = sexy. But when it comes to sex in your 40s, is it true it actually gets better? Say you’ve already been with the same sexual partner for a while….how do keep things fresh after so long? Then there’s the fact that our hormones start having a mind of their own leading to both mental and physical changes which can have a knock on effect on our sex drive and relationship.
There are so many factors at play here, which is why here at 40 Now What, we’ve decided to put together this deep dive on sex in your 40s. Here, we’ll address common issues and challenges that come along with intimacy in your 4th decade.
I wanted to start out with this wonderful summary by Anna Sale, author of Let’s Talk About Hard Things: Death, Sex, Money and Other Difficult Conversations.
‘Sex is one the most potent ways we communicate with one another. It’s a wordless conversation, but managing its power takes words. Whether it’s a one-time fling or a sixty-year marriage, sex requires us to articulate our own needs while attending to someone’s elses.’
You think after 40 years, we would have gotten better at this, but for many even in our 40s, talking about sex, what we do or do not want or issues surrounding sex can still be cringey. Which brings me on nicely to my next point….
Sex in your 40s: The big issues at play
‘During their forties women can experience the symptoms of perimenopause, which comes before the menopause and is a time of transition for women, it occurs when the ovaries gradually start to produce less oestrogen and is when they are running out of eggs and as a result they only release them on and off’, says Cosmetic doctor and menopause expert Dr Shirin Lakhani of Elite Aesthetic.
‘While the symptoms can be less severe than the menopause, they can still see you suffer from things such as irregular periods, hot flushes and mood changes. It’s important not to underestimate the impact that the perimenopause symptoms can have on intimacy. People can experience uncomfortable sex (and decreased libido as a result) due to the lack of lubrication from the vagina because of decreasing oestrogen (and testosterone) levels.’
‘Physically these may impact your sexual health and your physical ability to enjoy sex, combined with the mood swings which may inhibit your desire too. It’s important to try and be aware of these changes that will occur so that you can address them accordingly rather than suffering in silence. Nowadays there are plenty of options for addressing all of the symptoms of peri-menopause so that your ability to enjoy sex is not inhibited. Women in their 40s may also be experiencing the effects of child birth ie vaginal laxity and stress incontinence, which can also impact their sex lives.’
Dr Ruth Maher, co-inventor of pelvic floor experts INNOVO adds to this that, ‘65% of women with SUI leak urine during sex. Leaking during sex dramatically impacts their sexual quality of life, affects their relationships with their partners, and can cause social withdrawal and depression. Many of these women suffer in silence and never report this to anyone.’
So what can women who are experiencing the above do to help reduce any discomfort and increase pleasure levels during sex in their 40s?
‘There are a number of effective treatments available to treat the symptoms. PRP Therapy with treatments like O-Shot have shown to have a positive result in treating atrophy as well as incontinence while hyaluronic acid injections and localised oestrogen can also effectively offer relief from symptoms. Meanhile, women experiencing vaginal dryness because of the menopause can experiment with lubricant that can be bought in most chemists and supermarkets. Some women find lubricants messy and troublesome so there are other options. Hormone replacement (localised and systemic), vaginal growth factors or hyaluronic acid injections can give longer term relief’, advises Lakhani.
‘There are also various supplements that can be taken to help with symptoms such as DHEA, Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) from cruciferous vegetables, DIM (diiondolymethane), above all else it is important to eat a balanced diet and not too low fat as we need cholesterol to produce sex hormones. Addressing intimate medical issues affecting many women over 40 will ensure that many experience their best sex ever.’
Meanwhile ladies, don’t forget it’s important to keep doing your pelvic floor exercises! ‘As our bodies age and change our pelvic floor – the key set of deep muscles situated in the pelvis – can become weakened, which can lead to an inability to control urination. Unfortunately, we can’t control when these leaks happen…sexual stimulation can put pressure on your bladder or urethra and when combined with a weakened pelvic floor muscles can lead to dribbles’, says Maher.
‘Our top tip to avoid this: pelvic floor exercises! It’s possible that strong pelvic floor muscles could not only prevent leaks, but it can also increase sensitivity during sex, giving you stronger orgasms. So get squeezing and if you need some motivation, check out our ‘Music For Your Vagina’ playlist, perfectly crafted for you to get the most out of your pelvic floor exercises.’
The importance of intimacy
As we’ve probably all learnt by now, intimacy is all important in our sex lives. While it’s true that sex can create an intimacy feedback loop, sex isn’t the only way to have intimacy with your partner. So how do we up our intimacy stakes in our 40s?
Ana Mikaela Silva- Founder & CEO of Pleasy Play advises, ‘You can be more intimate by increasing desire and moving to a deeper level of understanding of each other. It’s about moments of connection and affection in a less-physical way: making eye contact, listening to your partner, small touches on the hand, kissing, hugging.’
‘Communication plays a big role in developing intimacy. It´s how couples are able to connect and to speak about their deepest desires and also about their boundaries. However, it can be hard to communicate to your partner your needs and wants, which is how the Pleasy Play app can help. If you don´t want to try a challenge or if you do, you simple reject / accept a challenge and your partner will be notified. It´s a simple way to communicate that can accomplish so much in the relationship.’
Sex in your 40s: Mixing things up
How can you keep things exciting when you’ve been with the same sexual partner for some time, and feeling generally knackered and harrassed by life? How do we break out of our existing sex routine (yup, we all have our trademark one don’t we?). To break out of the monotony, Silva says, ‘A great way to do this is to introduce sex toys as not only do they help to improve both of your pleasure, but also your confidence. Incorporating toys, like vibrators or couples toys, can increase sexual stimulation and pleasure in a way the human body sometimes just can’t. For example, Pleasy Play is a subscription service consisting of a personalised and specially curated box of intimate products and an interactive game with fun and sexy challenges through a mobile app.’
‘The great thing about introducing toys or intimate products like massage oils and lubes is that they can be used in diverse ways. which helps couples work on intimacy and communication, all the while having a lot of fun.’
With us living longer, healthier lives, it’s common for women and men to have several sexual partners, and through divorce or death of a partner, people are embarking on new sexual relationships later on in life. People are no longer accepting that their sexual lives should end beyond a certain age. It is therefore far more important to minimise the negative effects of ageing, allowing people to continue to enjoy all aspects of their lives no matter what their age.
While in some ways your 40s are not exactly kind to your sex life, in many ways sex in your 40s CAN be better. So what’s the final word? We say now’s the time to revel in foreplay, use lube, get curious, address any health issues and keep exploring and investing in your sex life.
What has been your experience of sex in your 40s? Do share in a comment below.