One of the benefits of Menopause is not having to worry about getting pregnant anymore. Finally, the time has come to throw away the pills, cancel the repeat injection appointments or take out the implant. However, before opening the bin lid and casting out the condoms...WAIT! Just because pregnancy is no longer a risk, Sexually Transmitted Infections, (STIs) are.
This may not be a problem or consideration for those individuals in a committed, monogamous relationship. After all, if neither partner has an infection already, they cannot pass it on so nothing to worry about.
However, sadly some relationships breakdown due to divorce or death of a partner leaving an individual single again and looking for a new relationship. No matter what age the person is or where they are in their menopause journey, they are never too old to enjoy an active sex life, but it is vital to ensure the sex is as safe and healthy as it can be.
In 2021 in England, 1,495 women aged 45-64 tested positive for Chlamydia; 449 for Gonorrhoea; 1,241 for Herpes; 58 for Syphilis; 1,165 for Genital Warts; 48% of people living with HIV were over 50 years of age with almost equal numbers of transmission seen between heterosexual individuals as with men who have sex with men. (N.B. STIs/HIV do NOT always produce symptoms.)
When entering a new sexual relationship using condoms correctly for all forms of sex, I.e., vaginal, anal and oral, will help reduce the risk of transmission of most STIs & HIV. If the relationship becomes less casual and more exclusive, all parties within the relationship should get a sexual health screening, once it is confirmed all are free of infection, condom use can be stopped if all parties wish to. (Just remember, to reuse with any new partners.)
When using condoms do not use oil-based, vaginal lubricants or moisturisers as oil warps latex causing the condom to split. If anyone has a latex allergy, non-latex alternatives are available. Condoms and water-based lubricants can be obtained, free of charge from sexual health services.
Just because someone has reached a certain age or begun a new life chapter does not mean they have to stop having sex. Whether that is within a long-term, committed relationship or with multiple, casual partners, sexual health should be protected, maintained and enjoyed for many years to come.
Sexually Transmitted Infections in England, (2021) www.gov.uk
UK HIV statistics, (2021) www.nat.org.uk
A BASHH Guide to Safer Sex, (2023) www.bashh.org
Condom tips-NHS, (2023) www.nhs.uk
This article is part of myTamarin's Mental Health Awareness Week blog series looking into how employers should be supporting through critical life events. This one looks into the impact menopause can have on mental health.Read post