So really…How much sex is “Normal?”

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone! The holiday marked for hearts, flowers,
and romance is a great day to talk about one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Sex! Sex is one of those categories that, while not taboo, is not openly
discussed,and leaves us wondering “Am I normal?” Based on surveys of
married couples, 1-2 times per week is average. But remember- this is not
a competitive sport! If the amount and type of sex you are having is good
for you and your partner then it is “normal” too.

Guess what, that biological clock that’s ticking is no myth, and it’s
what sometimes causes the sex drive in females to increase. In your
early 20’s, menstrual periods are typically regular. Pre-programmed
into us for “propagation of the human race” is the increase of desire
around ovulation (when we are most fertile). The hormones inducing
ovulation increase both sexual interest and the ability to orgasm. If
your sex drive isn’t as high as it usually is, it could be your
method of pregnancy protection. Birth control pills decrease
testosterone, which for some women can decrease desire. For others,
however, the confidence of pregnancy protection gives them freedom and
peace of mind which can increase desire.

As life transitions into marriage and stable relationships, a level of
confidence is reached. Many women feel more knowledgeable about what they
like and can ask for it. The increase in experience increases the orgasm
potential. This is why you hear “women have their sexual peak in their
30s”. Many women notice a dramatic increase in sex drive during the second half
of pregnancy (after the morning sickness a fatigue resolve!). The
skyrocketing progesterone and estrogen levels, the increased blood flow and
vulvar swelling, and the intimacy pregnancy brings with a partner can all
contribute to an increased desire.

However, if you aren’t feeling particularly frisky post-baby…you are not alone!
Immediately after delivery, the same hormones that got you riled up plummet.
The baby is putting new demands on the household, adding exhaustion
and stress to the mix. Breastfeeding relies on prolactin which further
decrease the sex hormones. This leads to thinning of the vaginal tissue
which may cause pain and decreased lubrication. So if you aren’t hitting records
in the bedroom post-baby, it’s okay.

As ovulation reestablishes itself, the hormones stabilize and desire
improves. That being said this is time of navigating parenting styles,
partner work load discrepancies (both in and out of the home), self vs
family time. Finding this balance is difficult but key in having a healthy
relationship and sex drive.

Perimenopause hits on average mid 40’s. The hormonal changes may decrease
spontaneous interest but should not decrease the ability to enjoy sex or
orgasm. Menopause itself, as defined by 1 year without a period, brings a
significant decrease in estrogen and testosterone. This leads to decreased
lubrication and blood flow to the vagina. Over the counter lubricants are
important during this time, to ensure that there is no pain involved.
If these are not enough, then prescription local estrogen replacement
can be help tremendously.

So you can see, your sex drive will change as you go through life. In
general, women who have a stronger emotional connection with their
partner will tend to have an increased desire for sex. As such,
intangible aspects of life have a strong effect on your sex life.
Relationship issues, stress, fatigue, exercise and self-image are all
important contributors to how much you are turned on. As you age, you may
be less the “initiator” and may become more “receptive”. And bottom line-
if it is okay for you and your partner it’s normal- whether that is daily
or once a year!

-Dr. Kristen Bannister


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