Sexual Wellness Resource Center
For Adults over 50.

Why do women stop having sex?

woman and man
By Michael Bates, M.D.

The two main reasons for not having intercourse in women over 50 are due to partner related factors or lack of partner. Let´s first talk about partner related factors.

52% of men between 40 and 70 report erection problems including arousal problems, inability to maintain an erection, erections too soft to permit penetration, and complete loss of ability to have an erection. The percentage is higher after the age of 70. The effect of erection problems can be devastating for  your partner, causing withdrawal from sexual intimacy because of fear of failure or loss of confidence.

Erectile dysfunction often accompanies chronic illnesses, the more common being diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. The result of treatment for prostatic cancer, both surgery and radiation therapy, is another  major cause of erectile dysfunction. Finally, medication side effects are a  major cause of dysfunction. The medications include a long list, from those used to treat chronic physical illnesses to those used to treat short term or longer term mental illness.

Of all affected men, only a small percentage, reported as fewer than 10%, seek medical help or report these side effects to their health care providers.

Current treatments exist and are successful, including psychosexual counseling, oral medication such as Viagra or Cialis, direct penile injection of medication with a very fine needle that causes little or no pain, medicine containing  urethral inserts, penile vacuum pumps (link) and rings (link), and penile prosthesis.   By far most men who seek help are able to find safe and effective treatment. There usually is a step by step trial period  involved, beginning with the least invasive options (pumps, rings, and medication) and working towards the more invasive options (surgery).  

The other main reason women stop having sex is the loss of a partner, through divorce or death. 40% of women and 13% of men 65 and older are widowed. Divorce over 50 is on the rise.  Either death or divorce is devastating. Grief  following such a loss is  normal, healing, and time-limited.  For most, functional healing and more or less normal participation in life, working, interacting with others, daily errands of personal care, has occurred by 6 months. 18 months and 3 years are more distant landmarks of greater healing and recovery. Grief eventually goes away.

Grieving initially suppresses sexual feelings as part of the whirlwind of strong emotional feelings and reactions. These sexual feelings eventually return and when they do masturbation is a healthy outlet for sexual tension as recovery progresses. Eventually you will stop grieving and be emotionally prepared to meet new people, a potential new partner may even appear. Entering the dating world after many years of absence is intimidating.  For more information and help, please go to our section on dating.

The take home message, with loss of a partner, whether because of death, divorce, or partner impotence, your own sexaulity is not somehow turned off like a light switch. You and your sexuality benefit from release of sexual tension. Masturbation and adults toys  are safe, healthy options.

About the Author

Michael Bates, M.D.

Dr Bates practiced obstetrics and gynecology for 34 years in Wichita, Kansas, until his retirement in 2011.

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