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Effects of Aging on the Female Reproductive System

By

Jennifer Knudtson

, MD, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio;


Jessica E. McLaughlin

, MD, Medical University of South Carolina

Last full review/revision Apr 2019| Content last modified Jan 2020
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION

Around menopause Menopause Menopause is the permanent end of menstrual periods and thus of fertility. For up to several years before and just after menopause, estrogen levels fluctuate widely, periods become irregular... read more Menopause , changes in the genital organs occur rapidly. Menstrual cycles Menstrual Cycle Menstruation is the shedding of the lining of the uterus (endometrium) accompanied by bleeding. It occurs in approximately monthly cycles throughout a woman's reproductive life, except during... read more stop, and the ovaries stop producing estrogen. After menopause, the tissues of the labia minora (which surround the opening of the vagina and urethra), clitoris, vagina, and urethra thin (atrophy). This thinning can result in chronic irritation, dryness, and a discharge from the vagina. Vaginal infections are more likely to develop. Also after menopause, the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries become smaller.

With aging, there is a decrease in the amount of muscle and connective tissue, including that in muscles, ligaments, and other tissues that support the bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum. As a result, the affected organs may sag or drop down (prolapse Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) Pelvic organ prolapse involve a dropping down (prolapse) of the bladder, urethra, small intestine, rectum, uterus, or vagina caused by weakness of or injury to the ligaments, connective tissue... read more Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) ), sometimes causing a feeling of pelvic pressure or fullness, difficulty urinating, loss of control of urination or bowel movements (incontinence), or pain during sexual intercourse. Women who have had many children are more likely to have such problems.

Did You Know...

  • Some women enjoy sexual intercourse more after menopause.

Because there is less estrogen to stimulate milk ducts, the breasts decrease in size. The connective tissue that supports the breasts also decreases, leading to sagging and contributing to changes in shape. Fibrous tissue in the breasts is replaced with fat, making the breasts less firm.

For most women, age-related changes in reproductive organs do not interfere with sexual activity or sexual pleasure after menopause. Some women enjoy sexual activity more after menopause, possibly because they are no longer concerned about becoming pregnant. In addition, after menopause, the ovaries and adrenal glands continue to produce male sex hormones. Male sex hormones help maintain the sex drive, slow the loss of muscle tissue, and contribute to an overall sense of well-being.

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