A big bouquet of roses waited for me at the front desk of my clinic.
It wasn’t my anniversary or my birthday. And doctors just don’t get a lot of flowers. When I saw who sent them, I smiled that special “good sex” smile, even though the sex I was smiling about wasn’t my own.
I've been a women's health doctor for more than 20 years, focused on midlife women for the past four. These flowers were not from a new mom or a patient with a difficult disease. These came from a patient who got her sex life back.
That may not seem like a big win in the scheme of things, but it was a wake-up call for me. My patient, now in menopause, was distraught that her sex life seemed to be over so soon—too soon. Sex was effortless for most of her life. It had been very satisfying. And suddenly, it wasn't any more.
We talked about sexual response with her hormonal changes, all of the many factors that could be influencing her experience. Then we talked about her options for managing these changes. She tried different routes, but when I introduced her to a device—she had not used them before—that made the difference for her. With the help of a simple tool, she was able to adapt to her new reality, and enjoy sex again.
It was a fairly straightforward doctor-patient exchange, but not a common one. Women rarely talk to their doctors about sex. As a menopause practitioner, though, I know that changes in sexual response are a key source of distress for a lot of women and their partners at this age.
Is it a doctor's job to help their patients have good sex? I think it is, absolutely. A healthy sex life sustains our overall health and well-being. Sex is good for us, and helps us to remain vibrant and strong. Menopause isn't a disease. It's a natural process. The more we understand this process, and discuss it openly, the easier it will be for us to make adjustments to accommodate our bodies' changes.
The roses were evidence that my patient's sex life had been restored. How many women like her have never raised the question with their doctors. Their gynecologists? Or sisters? Or friends?
Natural changes during meopause can make it feel like the door is closing on your sex life. For some of us, that’s not a huge loss. For others, it’s seriously distressing.
But these changes don't have to stop your sex life. They will certainly change things a bit. They may require learning some new things, trying some new techniques, experimenting with a few products.
I'm working with my friends to launch MiddlesexMD. We will reach out to women like my patient, women at midlife who aren’t ready to close the door on sex, and who aren’t sure how or when to talk with their doctors about their experiences. My partners and I want to build a trustworthy (and bouquet-worthy!) sexual health resource for midlife women, combining helpful advice, clinical expertise and a carefully selected set of products with a record of helping women continue to enjoy a satisfying sexual life as they age.
By launching our blog first, we're starting the conversation. We'd love to hear what you think, need, want. What do you think about a website devoted to midlife sex? Can you relate to the changes in your sex life? Please leave a comment to join the discussion, and/or sign up to receive the posts by email.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.