They seem so easy and straightforward in the movies: you have sex, moan a little, moan a little louder and, voila, you nail the "Big O" every time. But in reality, as many as 15% of women have never experienced an orgasm, and only 1 in 10 report having them during sexual intercourse.
That's because orgasms are anything but simple. They require a complex dance of physical stimulation and reaction. Your genitals are touched and respond appropriately, sending a stream of electrical signals to your brain, which, in turn, barks back orders to lubricate the vagina, pump blood to the area, and increase breathing. When every link in the chain does its job, you explode in a satisfying torrent of sensation. But, as our bodies age, the chances that one of those steps will be skipped increases, making an already elusive goal that much harder to achieve. But have no fear - it's not impossible. We've got the reasons you may have lost your groove and easy ways to get it back.
Dropping Hormone Levels
Well before women hit menopause, their bodies begin to make changes that affect hormone levels. The ovaries, which are the source of 50% of our testosterone, become less active, decreasing the production of the sex hormone that is key to our libido. So, it makes sense that sex drive often drops as we age. If you've noticed a significant downshift in your sex drive, hormones are one of the most likely culprits.
With age, your ovaries also begin to produce less estrogen, the hormone responsible for keeping your vagina well lubricated for sex. Without proper lubrication, not only are you less likely to be interested in sex, but also the increased friction can make sex painful and unlikely to end in orgasm. Declining estrogen also thins vaginal walls and decreases blood flow to the vagina, which also contributes to painful sex.
The Sex Rx
Use it or lose it applies here. The more sex you have, the more you will stimulate blood flow to your genitals to improve lubrication. But you don't have to do it alone. There are tons of helpful lubricants on your pharmacy shelves - from water-based ones to oil- and silicon-based options. Incorporate them into foreplay and let them do the work for you.
For some women who have a documented decrease in estrogen during perimenopause or menopause there are 2 prescription products to ask your doctor about. The first is a small estrogen tablet that is inserted into the vagina where it adheres to the vaginal wall and estrogenizes the vagina, increasing lubrication and reducing pain and irritation during sex. Another option is an estrogen-releasing ring that is inserted into the vagina and needs to be replaced every few weeks. Estrogen creams are also available by prescription and over the counter.
Weak Pelvic Muscles
The pelvic floor is a web of muscles that holds up all of our reproductive organs. As we age, gain weight, or have babies, these muscles stretch out. That laxity makes it harder to carry out and experience the intense muscular contractions and release of tension that is paramount to achieving orgasm.
The Sex Rx
Strengthen your pelvic floor by contracting your Kegel muscles daily. Kegel muscles are the ones you use to stop your urine mid-stream. Don't exercise while urinating, but during any other time of the day (when you're sitting at traffic lights, on the phone, or at your desk) squeeze them and hold for a beat or do fast fluttering contractions. Shoot for 100 a day. Exercises that strengthen your transverse abdominals, the deep abdominal muscles that support your torso, will also help tighten your pelvic floor. There are even special exercise devices that resemble a vibrator and are designed to help you do Kegels correctly.
Is Surgery Safe?
There's been a lot of buzz in the past few years about vaginal rejuvenation surgery. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has not endorsed it as a procedure that has been clinically and scientifically shown to have any real positive impact on a woman's sex life. There are, however, women who say that is has helped them personally. Women considering the procedure should speak to a gynecologist with a lot of experience performing it, because there are crucial nerves and blood vessels in the vagina that are central to sexual. Most experts say you should seriously consider why you feel the need to take such a radical step and shouldn't do it only to please a partner.
Don't Obsess Over the G Spot
A recent study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine sparked controversy when it claimed that the holy grail of women's sexual experience - the G-spot - may not exist. Experts who have faith in the spot say it lies in the same place that a man has a prostate gland (very near the urethra), so you will know you have found it if you feel the urge to urinate when it is stimulated. See Dr. Oz' detailed explanation of how to find your G-spot.
But, whether or not experts believe the G-spot exists, they all agree you shouldn't get hung up on finding it. If the search is fun, by all means keep exploring (and some recommend beginning on your own before asking your partner to join in the hunt). But if it's taking away from your pleasure, skip it. Clitoral orgasms are easier to achieve for most women.