Our bodies and needs change as we get older, and if you've been with the same partner for many years, it can be hard to keep the spark alive. If your love-making sessions have dwindled or dried up, here are six ways to boost your sex life.
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1. Be honest about how you feel
Couples counsellors agree that communication is the key to a good relationship. If you rarely discuss sex, starting a conversation can be daunting – but your partner might have similar concerns and be relieved to talk things over.
Don't bring up the topic while you are in bed, and certainly never after a failed lovemaking session. Choose a quiet moment, perhaps when you are going for a walk together, and approach the conversation with sensitivity.
Criticising the situation will only make your partner feel defensive. Instead, focus on the positive – that you love being with them and want to feel even closer. Or perhaps that you enjoy making love with them, and miss that part of the relationship – then ask how they feel about it.
Be honest about your feelings and encourage your partner to do the same. Talking about sex openly is the first step to improving your love life.
2. Check with your doctor
If you're experiencing a dip in libido, consider whether your prescription medication could be to blame. Many drugs, including blood pressure medications and antidepressants, can reduce libido and sexual arousal. Speak to your doctor about switching to another type of drug.
The menopause can also have an impact on women's libido. Vaginal dryness affects around 80% of women going through the menopause, which can potentially make sex dry and uncomfortable.
Try using water-based lube. Some - such as Durex Play Aloe Vera - contain nourishing ingredients that can help care for sensitive skin and soothe soreness.
If the menopause is making life very difficult, your doctor may recommend Hormone Replacement Therapy. Administered via tablets, patches or an implant, and they should prompt the mucous membranes in the vagina to begin producing lubricating fluids again. Alternatively, milder oestrogen creams are available. Don't be embarrassed about talking to your GP – they will have seen and heard it all before.
Five ways menopause affects your sex life
3. Invest in a sex toy
We lose sensitivity as we get older, and women in particular can need stronger stimulation to orgasm. If you're not used to using one, a compact vibrator for clitoral stimulation can be easier to introduce into your love making.
Best sex toys for women aged 50-plus
4. Consider seeing a counsellor
Any anger or resentment you feel towards your partner is going to have a negative impact on your desire for intimacy.
A good relationships counsellor can help you deal with any issues affecting your sex life, and offer you the communication tools you need to help solve it. If your partner is reluctant to attend, it's worth seeing a therapist on your own. They can help you gain a new perspective on any issues, and suggest new things to try.
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5. Change things up
You needed no encouragement to jump into bed together at the start of your relationship, but as we get older work and family responsibilities can get in the way. Now the children are older or have flown the nest, take the opportunity to re-discover each other.
Low desire can affect both men and women, sometimes compounded by hormonal problems as we age. You or your partner may not have the same biological urges that prompt you to want sex, and like anything, you need to use it or lose it. To help create an appetite for sex, try changing things up.
No one is suggesting you swing from the chandelier with a dodgy hip, but making small differences – having sex at a different time, with the light on, using a sex toy, watching a sexy movie, playing a sex game, can help to keep things interesting. If it's been a long time since you last had sex, focus on enjoying each other's touch through massage.
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6. Schedule sex
Spontaneity is all well and good, but there's a lot to be said for scheduling time for sex. Planning the evening can increase your anticipation and excitement, and ensure that you keep some time just for the two of you.
You don't necessarily have to go out a date night – you could stay home and simply go to bed at 9pm, instead of 11pm, when you're likely to be too tired. Turn off the TV, have a relaxing bubble bath and light some candles. You could even take it in turns to plan the evening and surprise one another.