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Just hit 50? Watch out for 5 sexual health problems that can affect your sex life

Good sexual health is vital for women's general health and wellbeing, especially as you age. So, look out for these sexual health problems common in women over 50.
A woman facing sexual health problems
Very long sex can often lead to STIs and other infections. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Team Health Shots Updated: 17 Oct 2023, 18:47 pm IST
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Now that you have hit the big 50, your investments will come through, and you create a cushion of lifelong savings. With age, also comes wisdom. While money and knowledge favour you at 50, health – not so much! Good sexual and reproductive health is important at any age. However, you have to be extra careful when you hit the half century in life as sexual health problems can come knocking at your door.

Certain health issues may arise in women who are over 50. We spoke to Dr Asha Dalal, Director of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai, to know the most common sexual health concerns in people over 50.

menopause
Know all about the common sexual health concerns for women over 50. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Common sexual health problems in women over 50

Here are some of the most common health concerns women over 50 should look out for!

1. Ovarian cancer

After breast cancer, ovarian cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in postmenopausal women. Cervical cancer is another common type of cancer that may affect women during this age. The best way to prevent the onset of cancer is early detection. Routine cancer screening is a must to reduce the chances of these problems. According to a 2019 study cited in the Sexual Medicine journal, women with ovarian cancer reported pain and loss of sexual desire, changes in their ability to orgasm as well as body image concerns.

Also Read: Debunking 7 myths around ovarian cancer

2. Cervical cancer

Another type of cancer that women should be on the lookout for is cervical cancer. For this, women must take a pap test to detect the formation of any abnormal or suspicious cells. Some of the common symptoms of cervical cancer you should look out for include post-menopausal bleeding, foul-smelling discharge or post-coital bleeding. If abnormal cells are detected you may need additional tests like colposcopy, colposcopy-directed cervical biopsy, MRI etc. for your doctor to decide on the further course of management.

cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is a common concern in women after 50. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

3. Uterine cancer

Another type of cancer common in women past the age of 50 is uterine cancer. “It is quite often picked up on a routine Pelvic USG done as part of a health checkup where the endometrial thickness is found to be greater than 4 mm. The most common symptom is post-menopausal bleeding,” clears Dr Dalal.

An endometrial sample is required to make a diagnosis. A pipelle aspiration, endometrial biopsy, D&C, hysteroscopy and D&C may be done to get a diagnosis and then further tests to define the line of management. Another issue in post-menopausal women is utero vaginal prolapse for which surgery is the management.

4. Decreased libido

Levels of oestrogen fall after menopause. This sometimes causes vaginal dryness and uncomfortable sex. This can reduce the desire for sex. Other causes of decreased libido include:

  • Medical problems like diabetes, hypertension, cancer etc
  • Some antidepressants may also be a reason
  • Certain lifestyle habits like alcohol and smoking are contributing factors
  • Relationship issues and psychological factors also play a part
low libido
Women over 50 may experience low libido. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Despite a low libido, many women do have an active sexual life for a long time after menopause. But a chronic loss of libido may cause depression and anxiety.
Interventions for the hypoactive sexual disorder as decreased libido is sometimes described include:

  • A positive attitude
  • Continuing emotional intimacy
  • Using vaginal moisturisers and lubricants
  • Menopausal hormonal therapy
  • Drugs to increase sexual drive
  • Changing your lifestyle also helps

5. Changes in vaginal shape

During menopause, your oestrogen levels decrease. Oestrogen causes the vagina to be moist and healthy. A decrease in oestrogens causes the vagina to become dry less, elastic and narrower. Dryness leads to irritation during sex. Atrophy leads to the vagina being more prone to infections. As the supports of the uterus become weak there may be prolapse of the uterus and vagina. The vulva also appears less full and paler.

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