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Sex and Aging

For women

Menopause (the end of a woman's menstrual periods and ovulation, caused by decreased hormones) is a milestone in the life of every woman. Menopause does not happen all at once; it can take years. Women can experience physical changes such as thinner vaginal walls, decreased vaginal secretions, and less-prominent external genitalia. Menopause can reduce a woman's sex drive, but many women find that the freedom that comes from not having to worry about getting pregnant actually increases their libido.

Estrogen replacement therapy and over-the-counter lubricants can decrease some of the symptoms of menopause.

For men

Aging affects the reproductive system more gradually for men than for women. While the hormone testosterone does not decrease much, men may experience erectile dysfunction, lower sperm production, and decreased libido. They may also have problems urinating or ejaculating due to an enlarged prostate gland.

There are treatments for prostate disorders and erectile problems; talk to your doctor.

Refer to the Sexuality and Physical Changes with Aging article on our Dartmouth-Hitchcock Healthwise® Health Encyclopedia website to learn more about the changes that come with aging and suggestions on how to adjust to these changes.

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