- With Mayo Clinic gynecologist and obstetrician
Mary M. Gallenberg, M.D.read biographyclose window
Mary M. Gallenberg, M.D.Mary M. Gallenberg, M.D.
Dr. Mary Gallenberg is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and by the American Board of Internal Medicine in internal medicine and medical oncology.
An Antigo, Wis., native, Dr. Gallenberg is a consultant in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and an assistant professor at College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Gallenberg has been with Mayo Clinic since 1990. She was on the Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource editorial board and has been honored for excellence in teaching. She also won a Mayo Clinic Excellence Through Teamwork award.
Sexual health basics (3)
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- Antidepressants: Which cause the fewest sexual side effects?
Women's sexual health (7)
- Sex after years of abstinence: OK to resume?
- Viagra for women: Why doesn't it exist?
- Sex during vaginal infection: Is it harmful?
- see all in Women's sexual health
Men's sexual health (7)
- Penis fracture: Is it possible?
- Male yeast infection: Can I get it from my girlfriend?
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- see all in Men's sexual health
Sex and aging (2)
- Loss of sex drive in men: Natural with aging?
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Sex after years of abstinence: OK to resume?
I'm a 76-year-old woman and haven't been sexually active in many years. Is it too late to resume sexual activity?
from Mary M. Gallenberg, M.D.
You can resume sexual activity at any time, as long as you're willing to invest a little time and patience.
With age, the vagina and vaginal opening often become smaller and the vaginal lining becomes thinner — especially when estrogen levels are low. As a result, it can take longer for the vagina to swell and lubricate during sexual arousal. Together these changes can make sex painful.
To make sex more comfortable:
- Begin with foreplay. Foreplay helps stimulate natural lubrication.
- Ensure proper lubrication. Try an over-the-counter lubricant, such as Astroglide or K-Y lubricating jelly. If sex remains painful, ask your doctor about vaginal estrogen therapy — available as a vaginal cream, tablet or ring — or other treatment options.
- Try various positions. After a long period of abstinence, it may take time to stretch the vagina so that it can accommodate a penis. Experiment with new positions to find what feels best.
- Ask your doctor about a vaginal dilator. A dilator is a smooth plastic tube you can use to gently stretch your vaginal tissues. Your doctor can help you choose the correct size. He or she may recommend placing the dilator in your vagina for several minutes at a time, several times a week. You may also choose to use a vibrator several times a week for the same effect.
In addition, keep in mind the need to practice safe sex — especially with a new partner. There's no age limit for sexually transmitted infections. Use a condom every time you have sex, and discuss testing for sexually transmitted infections with your partner.
Finally, remember that there's more to sex than intercourse. Activities such as talking, touching and kissing can help promote intimacy and lead to sexual satisfaction.Next question
Viagra for women: Why doesn't it exist?
- Shifren JL. Sexual dysfunction in women: Management. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed July 26, 2010.
- Sexuality in later life. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/sexuality.htm. Accessed July 26, 2010.
- Bachmann G, et al. Treatment of vaginal atrophy. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed July 26, 2010.
- Sex and intimacy after menopause. National Women's Health Resource Center. http://www.healthywomen.org/sites/default/files/FF_SexAftMeno.pdf. Accessed July 26, 2010.