Love & Sex

Getting Honest about Women’s Sexual Health

Nearly two decades ago the first medicine for erectile dysfunction was approved. The media and advertising that followed helped normalize the condition and communication around male sexual dysfunction. Unfortunately, even though more women than men complain of sexual health issues like decreased desire, arousal and pain with intercourse, much less attention has been paid to these problems.

As the Clinical Director of the Women’s Institute for Sexual Health, I know how common these types of conditions are for women. In fact, multiple landmark surveys show that nearly half of all women questioned report sexual complaints related to libido, arousal, orgasm and pain. And, in many cases, they suffer from several of these conditions at once.

There are a number of unique challenges and changes that occur in a woman’s body – at all stages of life – that can affect her sexually. For example, hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) tends to peak between ages 45-65, whereas moderate to severe painful sex due to menopause can affect women for nearly three decades – the average time a woman is post-menopausal. Declining estrogen levels after menopause cause specific vaginal tissue changes that can lead to a condition known as “dyspareunia,” which is when sex is actually painful. Women often think that it will go away on its own and are hesitant to talk about it. However, it’s a chronic and progressive condition that only worsens over time without treatment, which is why it’s so important to discuss all symptoms with your healthcare provider.

There is still a lot of work to be done to “even the playing field” for male and female sexual health but there have been some recent advances in treatment that will help make a difference. I encourage women to speak up about their concerns, and shed light on the prevalence of these conditions. Women’s sexual issues are complex, but that does not mean women should suffer. Women should speak with their healthcare providers because there are treatment options available that may be helpful.

Read More: 7 Tips for Enjoying Sex As You Age

Please make comments or ask for more information in the comments below.

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    Gyla

    I have been treated for estrogen-positive breast cancer. Treatment has ended and my oncologist strongly advises against using estrogen-based medications to help with dyspareunia (and other issues related to postmenopausal vaginal deterioration). I would very much like to resume sexual activities with my spouse of 40 years, but physical desire is also greatly diminished. Any thoughts about how to address these issues?

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