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Sex and Menopause: Treatment for Symptoms

Some women have vaginal dryness when their bodies experience the menopausal transition. This can make sex painful. Women may also experience a tightening of the vaginal opening, burning, itching, and dryness (called vaginal atrophy). Fortunately, there are options for women to address these issues. Talk with your doctor, who can suggest treatment options.

Older couple holding hands on a couchSex is becoming painful: What can I do?

Pain during sexual activity is called dyspareunia. Like other symptoms of the menopausal transition, dyspareunia may be minor and not greatly affect a woman’s quality of life. However, some women experience severe dyspareunia that prevents them from engaging in any sexual activity without pain.

Many find relief from vaginal dryness during sex by using a nonprescription, water-based lubricant, a variety of which can be found at most grocery and drug stores.

Other women try over-the-counter vaginal moisturizers, which are used regularly and not just during sex to replenish moisture and relieve dryness.

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Your doctor might suggest prescription hormones. Local vaginal treatments (such as estrogen creams, rings, or tablets) are often used to treat this symptom. These treatments provide lower hormone doses to the rest of the body than a pill or patch.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two nonhormone medications, called ospemifene and prasterone, to treat moderate to severe dyspareunia caused by vaginal changes that occur with menopause. Your doctor can tell you about the risks and benefits of these medications.

Learn more about menopause, and options for finding relief from hot flashes and sleep problems.

Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.

For more information on sex and menopause

Office on Women's Health                                             
Department of Health and Human Services

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

North American Menopause Society

Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders (SAGE)

Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States

This content is provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure it is accurate and up to date.

An official website of the National Institutes of Health