Ladies: Overcome Age-Related Sexual Changes

The coast is clearer than ever before. The kids are grown and living on their own, and you no longer have to lock your bedroom door in order to be intimate with your partner. Just one problem: you don't feel as, well, as sexy as you did when you were younger. If it's any comfort, you're not alone.

"Low desire is the most common sexual problem for women of all ages, and it becomes more of an issue for older women," says Shirley R. Baron, Ph.D., clinical associate at the University of Chicago's program in integrative sexual medicine. "Desire in women is much more complicated than it is for men."

As women enter perimenopause and then menopause, levels of estrogen and testosterone drop. "This decreases arousal," says Lovera Wolfe Miller, MD, FACOG, co-author with David C. Miller, MD, of Womenopause: Stop Pausing and Start Living. "The hormones fluctuate wildly and vaginal dryness sets in."There's less blood flow to the genitals and the tissues in the area thin, meaning sex can be more painful, Baron says.

Negative body image also impacts on sex drive. "Many women don't feel attractive," says Mary Jo Rapini, LPC, author of "Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex or Whatever." "They don't feel comfortable with their partner or free to be who they want to be with their partner."

Fortunately, you can rev up your sex life with a few simple measures.

Here's how to get started.

1. Vaginal dryness is "100 percent treatable with creams," Miller says. "Ask your doctor for one of the prescription creams that you can apply to the area."

2. A great way to get comfortable with your body is to go nude in your own home. If you aren't quite ready for that, put on a camisole and some short shorts. "When you start being less dressed in your own home and start looking at at your body and appreciating it, this will increase your libido," Rapini says.

3. She also recommends masturbation. "It will help you get back the feelings that you want to have, and you will know what you like," Rapini says.

4. Talk to your partner for at least 15 minutes a day. "When couples are really engaged and talking face to face with no interruptions, there is often a big increase in their sex life," Rapini says.  

5. Don't be afraid to try something different, says Nina Zeldis, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice in Israel. "Sex can become boring," she says. "And 80% of sex is psychological. Part of good sex is getting adventurous with each other."

6. Engage in more foreplay. "A lot of desire is anticipating that something will feel good," Baron says. "A woman may not even think about sex or even want it until the touching starts and then they decide that they want it."

7. Consider doing yoga, Rapini suggests. You'll feel better physically, for one thing. But also, she says, "When you bend your body and move with more agility, you feel better about your body."  And once you have a more positive body image, you'll feel sexier all over.