Updated: Oct 11
Co-written & reviewed by Elektra's sexual health expert Jacqueline Giannelli, FNP
Yes, we’ve all got a lot on our minds as we figure out the new "sheltering-in-place normal" with families, work, kids, and everything else at home. These are stressful days – it's hard to wrap our head around how the days can feel so long yet short and hectic at the same time. But we're here to remind you that even with the stress, let's not forget about intimacy.
Yes, many of you are likely wondering… how do I foster healthy intimacy even in these strange circumstances? Elektra Health decided to tackle this head on this week through a small-group online salon yesterday to get to the heart of it with our expert in sexual medicine and women’s health, Jacqueline Giannelli, FNP. Read on for her advice and best tips for what you can do today to promote healthy intimacy even in these unusual circumstances.
Firstly, it's important to acknowledge that many women are having a hard time focusing on their sex lives. Whether you're cooped up with a partner or unattached and worried about how this pandemic impacts your potential to find a partner, everyone is experiencing their own anxieties – we're all in this together. For women also experiencing the hormonal fluctuations of perimenopause or menopause, feelings of low libido are even more common. So, if sex is the last thing on your mind, that’s totally ok, and you’re certainly not alone.
We sometimes need to be reminded that sex and intimacy are not the same thing.
Intimacy is really about touch that feels good and brings us pleasure. If you're home with your partner, this could be a brief shoulder rub in the middle of the day when you’re crossing paths with your partner in the house, or taking a few extra minutes to snuggle at the end of the day. Without a partner for the quarantine? Intimacy with yourself is something to be cherished.
Expert advice to remember & live by:
You are entitled to a great sex life, no matter your age or marital status
Desire is fluid. It ebbs and flows but you should always be able to find a glimpse of it
Sex and intercourse are not interchangeable. Intercourse is just one item on the menu of sex. It does not have to be the “end game”
As such, you don’t need a partner to have great sex
If you do have a partner, do not assume they are a mind reader
Intercourse should NOT be painful. If it is, ask for help. Do not stop until someone listens
Every woman has the potential for orgasm. Around the time of menopause, it just may become harder to get there
Vibrators are not dirty, or kinky or salacious. They are your friends. Get to know one, or many!
Sex should be fun, not an obligation
Navigating partnerships & sex...in quarantine
Prioritizing sex and intimacy can be really important as a way to keep a relationship healthy, especially at this time. We’ve seen reports coming from China about rising divorce rates in the wake of the pandemic and may want to take heed.
Leaving Coronavirus out of the equation for a moment, low sex drive (libido) is something many women experience, especially in their 40s and 50s, so it’s worth touching on the science behind this. Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is an actual diagnosis for patients who exhibit low libido. It is defined as: “low sexual desire that causes marked distress and is not due to another co-existing medical or psychiatric condition, problems within the relationship or other medication”. This is often due to decreased circulating hormones (think testosterone) or neurochemical changes in the brain (think dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine). Secondary causes of low libido may include pain (NO one wants to do something that hurts), or weakened arousal and orgasm (why do something that doesn’t feel good?).
If this sounds like you, don’t despair! There are trained clinicians who can help and treatments can include FDA-approved medications, herbal supplements, as well as behavioral modifications which you can implement on your own, or with the guidance of a professional.
Whatever your reason for low libido, take a look at the resources that have helped Jackie’s patients - and that you can try today, even in the midst of a quarantine:
Check out the Gottman Institute Quiz: How well do you know your partner?
Read Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel. An Elektra team favorite, famed sex therapist examines the paradoxical relationship between domesticity and sexual desire and explains what it takes to bring lust home.
Invest in an over-the-counter lubricant or even pantry items (coconut oil!) to help increase your pleasure. For vaginal dryness, this non-hormonal vaginal suppository can help restore moisture and relief symptoms of dryness such as painful intercourse.
Scheduling sex! This is a simple and yet powerful tactic to carve out time when both parties are committed to when sex will and will NOT happen.
Remembering that sex can be a great distraction from checking the constant phone alerts. Sex is a form of mindfulness, can help ground you in your body, into the here and now.
Elektra Health is on a mission to smash the menopause taboo. Our platform provides world-class virtual menopause care, evidence-based information, and a supportive community of peers. Because women deserve better.
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