You’ve heard of menopause, but that stage when you’re not quite there, but you don’t seem to have that same sexual spunk you had in your 20s and early 30s is called perimenopause. It can start anytime after you celebrate your 35th birthday and could last for 5 years or so. For some females, this stage might only last a few months or could last longer than 5 years. Perimenopause is the transition time from mostly regular ovulation and menstruation cycles toward permanent infertility or menopause.

Do you remember how you felt when going through puberty? Think of perimenopause as the bookend to puberty. Just like when you were an oily, moody teenager, the hormonal fluctuations can cause irritability, mood swings, weight gain, anxiety, and also literally give you a headache.

What to expect during the transition

With wildly fluctuating hormones, you could feel like you’re experiencing PMS or pregnancy. Your experience could vary from hot flashes or night sweats, insomnia, a change in your period from heavier to lighter or vice versa, and even urinary leakage. Even though your fertility could be decreasing during perimenopause doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant though. As long as you’re menstruating—and don’t have your tubes tied or are using another birth-control method–-there’s still a possibility of getting pregnant.

Perimenopause can also affect your sexual experience. Some females experience a heightened sex drive because she’s approaching her sexual peak. Some females may have a decreased sexual appetite, or not be hungry for sex at all—be it solo or partnered like they used to. This could be in part because it doesn’t feel like it used to, whether from pain, dryness and other changes in the vaginal area during the transition. For some, it’s not so much a weak appetite for sex as it is not finding the right outlet for their desires, be it finding the right partner(s) and/or sex toys.

A low libido can be frustrating for many females and their partner(s). It could end up causing friction in your relationship too. Since perimenopause can start years before menopause, there’s a chance you might not realize what’s happening with your body and suddenly feel less interest in a sexual relationship.

Here are some ways to approach sex during perimenopause:

  • Let your doctor or therapist know. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, they can test to find out if you’re in perimenopause.
  • Check your hormone levels. In fact, it’s a good idea for all women to do this, especially if they’re generally feeling good with their sex lives because each woman’s hormonal needs are unique. Having your hormones checked before entering the perimenopause stage can also be helpful to establish a baseline to measure against later if and when you start to experience stronger symptoms. Also, if you and your healthcare providers decide to use hormone therapy, you’ll know what your old “normal” used to be.
  • Keep doing your Kegels. These are still important! The easiest way to do them is first to make sure your bladder is empty, then sit or lie down, tighten your pelvic floor muscles, and hold tight and count to 8. Then, relax the muscles and count to 10, repeating 10 times, 3 times a day.
  • Masturbate. If you’re already masturbating, try doing it more often, or varying how and where you masturbate to help with orgasms.
  • Have sex more often. This might seem counterintuitive, especially if you’re just not feeling particularly sexy right now. If you consider you could just be approaching your sexual peak, you get to define what that means for you and your sex life.
  • Look after yourself. Self-care is always important, but especially so during a time of transition like perimenopause. Rediscover old hobbies, find some new ones, carve out time every day to look after your body, move, and enjoy nourishing foods.
  • Talk it out. As you go through perimenopause, keep your communication open with your partner(s). They need to understand what you’re experiencing, so be honest about what you’re going through. As your sexual desire decreases, your partner could feel rejected. If they can understand it’s not personal, your body and your hormones are changing; it can help create a closer, more intimate relationship. Having your partner’s support can go a long way to helping you feel good too. Share this article with them as a way to begin the conversation.

Whatever perimenopause means for you—body changes, a libido decrease, or coming into the full expression of your beautiful, sexy self, the good news is, you get to define it. You choose what it means for you.

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Art by @adesignernerd

Sexology International, like all of our work, is for people of all sexual preferences and all forms of gender expression, including people whose identity is something other than male or female. As such, we like to use gender-neutral pronouns. More recently accepted alternatives include words like “ze” and “hir” or the universal pronoun “they.” Throughout our work, we will be doing our best to use alternative pronouns, such as “they,” whenever gender or plurality is unimportant. In doing so we hope it helps everyone to feel included in the discussion and that it inspires you to think outside of traditional sex and gender binaries.


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