Looking after your sexual health and function, whatever your age…
They’re easy to ignore and so often neglected but sexual health and function problems can affect women of all ages! Here’s a breakdown of what you, and the other women in your life, should look out for, while you enjoy your sex throughout every stage of life.
In your 20’s
Issues can arise for women in their 20’s as a result of gaps in their knowledge about sexual health and perhaps being unsure who to turn to for advice.
A common sexual health topic for women of this age is contraception. Which contraceptive method is best varies for each woman and should be discussed with a health professional. Listening to horror stories from friends can be off-putting – what didn’t work for them may work for you. Speak to a health professional, know your options and go with what you think will suit your lifestyle and preferences best.
Unfortunately, for many, struggling to reach orgasm with a partner is not so rare in their early 20’s. You may still be getting to know your body and working towards mastering your sexual preferences and communication with partners. This may be particularly true for those with casual sex partners. Research shows that your chance of reaching orgasm from a one-time experience is halved, compared to when you’re getting steamy with a long-term partner. The research suggests that you’re less likely to communicate what you like and don’t like, or to let go and be carefree in the moment, if you do not know them well. Take time to understand your preferences and don’t be shy to voice them, whatever the scenario!
STI – the dreaded three letters! According to the American Sexual Health Association, 50% of sexually active people will contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI) before their 25th birthday! So, hey, it’s more common than you might think and is nothing to be ashamed of. The main thing is to get yourself tested, as soon as you’ve had unprotected sex with someone whose sexual health status you’re unsure of – regardless of whether you’ve noticed symptoms. Remember, health and medical professionals see and talk about STIs every day, so there’s no need to feel uncomfortable seeking help. Services, such as sexual health clinics, often offer drop-in sessions that make it easy to access same-day professional advice.
Barrier methods, like condoms, can be used to protect yourself from getting an STI. A responsible attitude towards safe sex is something that will serve you well for the rest of your life, even if you can no longer fall pregnant. Over the last decade, STIs in people between the ages of 50 and 70 have risen by more than a third.
In your 30’s
Some say that, when it comes to orgasms, the best years of your life begin at 30, which makes sense since you are likely more confident, experienced and have a better idea of what you enjoy. However, your body is starting to experience a few changes that you may also start to notice!
Just as you had your menstrual cycle down to a tee, your 30’s arrive and switch things up! Towards your mid-30s your body may experience hormonal shifts, which could mean you notice changes to the length, heaviness and symptoms of your period.
For those entering motherhood, it goes without saying that you will experience a plethora of changes to your body! These are likely to include a weakened pelvic floor (the layer of muscles that sits like a hammock, between your pubic bone and coccyx), which might mean you pee a little when you run, sneeze or laugh. Pregnancy can put strain on your pelvic floor muscles, so it’s important to train those muscles to regain strength and support recovery. Always seek the help of a health professional, if you notice symptoms, who may recommend Kegel exercises to improve pelvic floor strength and function. Elvie Trainer is a smart Kegel exercise tool that guides you through fun, five-minute pelvic floor workouts and helps you track your progress, motivating you to train your pelvic floor correctly and effectively.
After giving birth, your libido might not return straight away. This is different for every woman and is not something you should compare. You’ll still be getting used to your body’s changes and may be experiencing vaginal dryness, tiredness from the long nights and hormonal changes. Give yourself time and don’t pressure yourself into conforming to other people’s expectations. Health professionals recommend that women don’t have penetrative sex until they’ve been for their check-up at six weeks postpartum; this is a good time to talk to your GP about any concerns and ask for a referral, if you feel you’d benefit from more specialized physical or emotional support. For example, you may want your GP to refer you to a sex and relationships therapist, to help with talking to your partner about how you feel, or to a women’s health physiotherapist, to help with incontinence symptoms. Do remember, when you are ready, that a stronger pelvic floor can also help to achieve more intense and longer-lasting orgasms!
From your 40’s and onward
As you get older, your pelvic floor may begin to weaken and lose its elasticity. Aging is one of the most common causes of bladder control issues and many women experience some leakage in later life, which is why it is important to take care of your pelvic floor in your 40’s and onward.
As you go through the menopause, hormonal changes may also mean that your desire for sex begins to decline and sex can sometimes become uncomfortable, due to vaginal dryness. Strengthening the pelvic floor through pelvic floor exercise can enhance your body’s natural lubrication by improving blood flow to the vaginal area. You can also buy additional lubricants in stores or online. Your health professional can talk you through any symptoms and provide you with advice and recommendations that are right for you.
With age comes experience, so there is no reason why you should stop experiencing mind-blowing orgasms throughout every decade. Orgasms release oxytocin, a hormone that helps the body relax, so why should you not get in on the action (pun intended)? Whatever your age, understanding your sexual health and function is key to a happy, healthy life and you shouldn’t be embarrassed to equip yourself, and others around you, with the facts!