Forget doom and gloom in the bedroom at the big four-oh—your sex life can definitely improve, according to research: Women grow increasingly satisfied with their sex lives after they turn 40, finds a University of California San Diego study. Here’s to you, indeed, Mrs. Robinson! Five reasons why:
1. You’re much more comfortable with your body.
You’ve endured the ravages of pregnancy and the sweat and pain of childbirth. You’ve nursed wee ones and schlepped 50-pound preschoolers miles in sweltering heat. You’ve seen how much your body can endure, and as a result you’re more appreciative of it. All that pays off in the bedroom: a 2010 UK survey of 2000 women found that those in their 40s were less self conscious about their bodies than younger women and, as a result, were more comfortable in between the sheets.
“I feel that my patients in their 40s just have a better appreciation of how their bodies works,” says Lauren Streicher, MD, associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and author of Sex RX: Hormones, Health and Your Best Sex Ever. They’re more practical about their needs: “They understand that they may not always be able to have an orgasm through intercourse, and that they may also need a vibrator or clitoral stimulation.” This can lead to a more satisfying experience, obviously. Also, going through the ups and downs of life gives you the gift of perspective: “Women at this age don’t freak out about their cellulite,” adds Streicher.
2. Your life has calmed down.
“Most women spend their 30s either pregnant or with young children, which is a real stressor,” points out Streicher. “They spend the decade in mommy mode rather than sexual mode, and intimacy gets put on the back burner.” (There’s no bigger libido killer than shrieking toddlers outside your room.) Now that you’re no longer three (or four, or five) in a bed, and no longer getting woken up at the crack of dawn, you’ll have more energy for the finer things in life—sex among them. Another bonus: “Many women who are done having kids opt for a more permanent method of birth control such as IUD—or vasectomy for their partner—instead of relying on oral contraceptives, which can dampen sex drive,” Streicher says.
3. You’re getting a hormonal surge.
While estrogen levels may be dipping during this decade, there’s a silver lining: “As you start going through perimenopause, your body’s testosterone remains unchanged, while estrogen decreases, creating a high testosterone to estrogen level in your blood,” points out Hilda Hutcherson, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center and author of the sexual advice book,Pleasure. Testosterone can perk up your sex drive, and you can find yourself hungering after your partner more during this time. Or, if you find your libido swinging the other way, you can find no-drug solutions to vaginal dryness, weight gain and other joys of menopause in The Natural Menopause Solution by Melinda Ring, MD.
4. You’re newly single.
Only about 62% of women aged 45 to 54 are currently married, according to the US Census Bureau. About 3% are widowed, 19% are divorced, and almost 4% are separated. But with the upsurge of online dating (Tinder, anyone?) it’s not likely you’ll be alone for long. And with your new single gal status comes a sense of sexual freedom: “Once women are out of monogamy, many rediscover their sexuality, which is very freeing for them,” notes Streicher.
5. You’re evolutionarily hardwired for it.
A ticking biological clock may actually increase your libido, according to a 2010 University of Texas study. When researchers divided women into high fertility (ages 18 to 26) and low fertility (ages 27 to 45) groups, they found the older ones were more likely to have frequent and intense sexual fantasies, a more active sex life, and were more open to one-night stands. Why? One theory is that back in the caveman days when moms commonly lost babies, they felt pressure to churn out as many as possible. As fertility declined with age, researchers say that women who remained more sexually active were more likely to be successful in producing offspring.