Sex in Menopause: The Painful Truth

Findings of a recent health survey in the US suggest that women are not well-informed about one of the most common and troubling symptoms of menopause: painful sex.

Key Survey Findings:

  • 73% of women were still sexually active after menopause.
  • 62% were experiencing pain during intercourse.
  • Of those who reported experiencing pain during intercourse 83% reported experiencing pain in half or more instances of sexual activity with 73% rating the pain moderate to severe.
  • 60% had never discussed their painful sex with a health care provider.
  • 69% did not know that the painful sex they were experiencing is treatable.

The survey, conducted by HealthyWomen, an independent, nonprofit health information source in the US, was conducted among 832 women aged 45 years and older and 305 women’s health care providers (HCPs). It really highlights the importance of women sharing their symptoms with their health care providers for proper treatment and to prevent symptoms from worsening.

About Dyspareunia (painful sex)

Before menopause, oestrogen, the primary female sex hormone, helps maintain the thickness and elasticity (stretchiness) of vaginal tissues. However, as women age, oestrogen levels drop, causing changes in these tissues. These changes can lead to a medical condition called vaginal atrophy (VA), also known as GUSM (Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause), which can lead to painful sex. Left untreated, painful sex due to menopause can worsen. Dyspareunia is a common postmenopausal condition, with as many as one in three postmenopausal women experiencing pain during intercourse.

The survey also gave some insight into how women were electing to cope with painful sex – 33% of respondents were avoiding sex altogether, and 45% were resorting to lubricants to manage pain.

Lubricants can provide temporary relief, these do not treat the underlying condition. A number of prescription therapies, including hormone replacement tablets or patches, as well as vaginal oestrogen are available. For women who can’t (or prefer not to) take hormonal therapy, laser regeneration treatment can be delivered directly to the vulval and vaginal tissues to specifically treat the dyspareunia related to menopausal lack of oestrogen.

Women’s health is a topic that is often in the headlines, yet menopause is still an under-discussed stage of life, especially when it comes to lesser-known symptoms and impact on a woman’s sexual health. These findings show the need for improved communication between women and their HCPs, as well as general condition and treatment options awareness so women can lead fulfilling sex lives, pain-free.

– Barb Dehn, NP, and member of the HealthyWomen Women’s Health Advisory Council.

If painful sex is an issue for you, please bring it up with your GP.

If you would like to talk to us about quick, painless, non-hormonal laser treatment please send us a confidential message or book a MonaLisa® Consultation with our experienced female doctor.

Tap into our medical expertise

We understand that talking about intimate issues can be awkward. We are here to listen, share our medical knowledge and help you feel your best.

sex in menopause info-poster

For more information on the survey:

* This survey titled “What Do You Know about Your Sexual Health After Menopause?” was conducted within the United States by HealthyWomen in partnership with Duchesnay. It was conducted online from December 4, 2017, to March 18, 2018, among 832 women ages 45 and older and 305 women’s health care providers.


  • Davis SR, Lambrinoudaki I, Lumsden M, et al. Menopause. Nat Rev Dis Primer. 2015; 15004. doi:10.1038/nrdp.2015.4.
  • Freedman MA, Kingsberg SA, and Portman DJ. Dyspareunia Associated with Vulvovaginal Atrophy: Innovations in Counseling, Diagnosis, and Management. Supplement to OBG Management. 2018: S1-24.
  • Krychman M, Graham S, Bernick B, et al. The Women’s EMPOWER Survey: Women’s Knowledge and Awareness of Treatment Options for Vulvar and Vaginal Atrophy Remains Inadequate. J Sex Med 2017; 14: 425‐433.
  • Simon JA. Vulvovaginal atrophy: What is it, what causes it? OBG Management. 2015;(suppl):1-2.
  • What Do You Know About Your Sexual Health After Menopause? Healthy Women website. Updated May 2018.
  • Wysocki S, Kingsberg S, Krychman M. Management of Vaginal Atrophy: Implications from the REVIVE Survey. Clin Med Insights Reprod Health 2014; 8:23-30.
  • HealthyWomen. Data on File.