Why Masturbation is Good for Menopausal WomenApr 19, 2023
Skip the stigma and the shame. Self-love is good for the mind, body, and spirit.
By Selene Yeager
Sometimes our Hit Play Not Pause podcast guests ask if there are any topics that are off-limits. The answer is always, "Nope!" If anything, we seek to push the limits in our discussions, covering all the hidden woes that get pushed into the shadows because of some stigma or shame. This week we shine a bright light on one of those hush-hush topics–masturbation.
Midlife and menopause can do a number on our sexual selves. Our bodies are changing. We can feel more anxious and less self-confident. After years of taking care of others, we can lose sight of ourselves.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can find body–and sexual–confidence with age. And it starts with self-love which, as this week’s Hit Play Not Pause guest Lou Featherstone explains, doesn’t just mean a fuzzy appreciation of yourself. It means masturbation–literally getting back in touch with what makes you feel good sexually. Lou recently toured the US in a vintage Bluebird bus spreading sex positivity as well as busting myths about midlife and menopause along the way.
Here’s what she–and science–have to say about the benefits of self-satisfaction. (Note: Of course, all of this is deeply personal. If masturbation is against your personal and/or religious beliefs, you can certainly live a rich, full, and fulfilled life without it!)
Masturbation can help you fire up your sexy side
If your sexual side has been on an extended dry spell, masturbation can prime the pump (in more ways than one, but we’ll get to that in a minute…). When Lou started testing vibrators for the Fun Factory, she found a whole new sexy side of herself. “For the first time in my whole life, it was about me and not about somebody else. I started to figure out what I liked…and the more I did it, the sexier I felt in myself,” she says. “I started to realize how much I had put myself on the back burner, whole parts of me, the whole sexual side of me that I used to love.”
Masturbation is good for vaginal health
Regular vaginal sexual activity, including masturbation, increases blood flow to your vagina, which may lead to less vaginal dryness and healthier vaginal tissues. It also can help prevent other vaginal changes that can happen following menopause, such as the vagina becoming shorter and narrower. Having regular vaginal sexual activity through menopause can help maintain the vagina’s length and width as well as keep the vaginal tissues thick and moist, according to the North American Menopause Society.
Masturbation lowers stress, lifts mood, and improves sleep
Vaginal intercourse (including solo activity) and orgasm physiologically stimulate the vagal (also called vagus) nerve, which increases parasympathetic (aka rest and digest) activity and triggers the secretion of oxytocin, which has an anti-stress effect and elevates feelings of well-being. Orgasm also releases other feel-good hormones and chemicals including dopamine (aka the happiness hormone), serotonin, endorphins, prolactin, and endocannabinoids. This same cascade of stress-busting hormones and chemicals can help you slip into slumber more easily.
Masturbation is a good pelvic floor exercise
Let’s face it, Kegels are not exciting. We do them (if we do them) because we have to. And while Kegels are a good starting point for pelvic floor health, they’re often not enough, or even appropriate by themselves, since not all pelvic floor problems stem from weak muscles. Sometimes they're the result of those muscles being chronically too tight. One study found that women who initiated sexually induced orgasms along with daily Kegels not only improved pelvic floor muscle strength, but also improved the ability to relax the pelvic floor significantly better than their peers who only practiced daily Kegels.
All this is easy to say. But for many women masturbation is not an easy thing to do. Women often live with shame surrounding sex as well as past trauma. Working with a therapist can help. If you’ve never gotten intimately familiar with your vagina and aren’t really sure where to start, past Hit Play Not Pause guest Dr. Lauren Streicher has a great book called Sex Rx: Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever that includes everything from an up-close view of your genitals to lubes and sex toys. You can also check out another past Hit Play Not Pause guest Dr. Kelly Casperson’s new book You Are Not Broken: Stop “Should-ing” All Over Your Sex Life for more on this important topic of adult sex ed.
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