What’s Up With Libido in Perimenopause and Menopause?
Your body is a product of tens of thousands of years of evolutionary fine-tuning.
You are who you are today thanks to our collective ability to adapt to changing environments in ways that increase our chances of survival and reproduction.
And what has this got to do with libido and midlife change?
During perimenopause and menopause our bodies are guided by ancient wisdom, not the collective expectations of Generation-Xers!
When you think about how women’s lives have transformed over the last century, it’s no surprise that our bodies are still playing catch-up.
We expect our bodies to respond to our very modern demands, yet evolutionary adaptation cannot possibly work at the speed of societal changes over recent decades.
Our bodies are brilliant but here’s what they instinctively don’t know about modern life:
Our bodies don’t know about the sexual revolution and the pressures women face to remain sexy at all times and through every decade of our lives.
Our bodies don’t know that humans have invented contraception that does a pretty effective job of preventing pregnancy when pregnancy is not desired.
And our bodies don’t know that we as a society have become rather obsessed with holding on to our identities at all costs; our bodies are more in tune with an ancient understanding of seasons, flow, life cycles and the expression of “I AM” rather than "I should be x, y, and z forever."
All that being said, here’s what our bodies intuitively know:
Our bodies know that when hormonal changes are required, to start and end our reproductive years, it's best that those changes happen incrementally over time rather than in an instant. Compare, if you like, taking off and landing in a plane with taking off and landing in a space rocket – the ability to withstand high g-force is not innate in humans (yet!).
Our bodies also know that since entering the reproductive years and exiting them needs to be gradual, there will be times (at the start and end of our reproductive years) when a woman will be fertile but conditions will be far from ideal for a healthy pregnancy. It appears therefore, that it is part of the design that as a girl slowly develops into a woman, in most cases she will start menstruating years before her libido will lead her to sex, which makes good sense because although a thirteen year old can become pregnant, the body is not interested in this happening because of the high risks involved in early teenage pregnancies.
Similarly, as a woman exits her reproductive years, there will be a period where she'll remain fertile but a pregnancy can pose a high risk to mother and child. The body’s solution? Reduce a woman’s libido and vaginal lubrication (which aids conception) before she enters menopause to lessen the chances of risky pregnancy.
Does every woman experience a drop in libido? No, but many do and if you're one of them, you might want to take a moment to pause, put your hands on any part of your body that you feel called to, and offer your body some RESPECT.
Your body is acting primarily out of love.
Putting the reproductive discussions aside, there's another emotional and if you like spiritual side of what is happening to our libido during perimenopause, especially since libido is not only influenced by hormones but also by stress.
As I’ve written many times on this blog, perimenopause is a time to evaluate your life by looking inward and allowing inner wisdom to guide you to discover healthy shifts you can make.
The change in our libido appears to be not only a result of reproductive considerations but also emotional and spiritual ones.
If when your libido was higher, you used to be able to be turned on like a switch, the quality of your relationship with whoever turned on the switch was less in focus.
If now, you are more like a genie in a bottle, you’re going to have to pay more attention to who’s rubbing you and in which way! If your partner is not giving you the attention that you deserve and desire, perimenopause will bring your pleasure-gap into focus.
If you're without a partner, you may be more drawn to find one who will fill your pleasure-gap, without compromising.
And if you're not giving yourself the attention and time you need for your own wellbeing, but continue to live and show up in your relationship with high levels of stress, you will continue to drag your libido down.
But there is good news!
As perimenopause pushes your inner wisdom to the surface so that it can help you reach more joy and less stress in your life, you'll know if there are changes you need to make to access wellbeing (you can start here), or changes you need to make in your current relationship (you can start here). Or if you're living without a partner and you desire one, you'll be guided as to what steps you need to take so you can welcome a wonderful partner into your life.
All of this can get you into the perfect position to best experience a post-menopause sexual renaissance! As Dr Christiane Northrup explains in her book, The Wisdom of Menopause, the two hormones FSH and LH, which are generally unstable during perimenopause, line up to peak and remain high for the rest of your life, post-menopause.
During our reproductive years and prior to perimenopause, FSH and LH peak only at ovulation, making us feel more sexy, intuitive and highly receptive to people and new ideas each and every month at this time. If you take birth control pills prior to menopause, you won't feel that primal surge, which is obviously designed to help us continue the survival of the species.
What’s interesting is that when FSH and LH are still being produced at high levels when we no longer ovulate, there is only one purpose – to encourage us to enjoy a fulfilling and passionate life forever, because our bodies know that pleasure is absolutely healthy for us!!
Does this mean that every woman post-menopause experiences a sexual renaissance? No. Women's bodies and their experiences of them are different. While many women do experience the return of their libido, some do not. However, whether you experience a temporary drop in libido during perimenopause or a more permanent shift in your libido through menopause, neither can change the essence of you and neither can change the importance of finding pleasure in your life.
Perimenopause and menopause are perfect times to respect your body, rejoice in its brilliance and learn to better tune into your desires, because this is exactly what our bodies want us to do, so we can live happy and healthy lives as we move beyond midlife change.
"There is no more creative force in the world than a menopausal woman with zest." – Margaret Mead