You're Not Alone

It’s going on eight years since I transformed my medical practice. I studied and became certified by the North American Menopause Society as a menopause care provider, and while welcoming patients into my practice, used their questionnaire — a thorough document that makes it easy for new patients to give me a comprehensive view of their symptoms and health histories. On that eight-page-long form there are just a few questions for women to answer about their current and past sexual experiences:
  • Do you have concerns about your sex life?
  • Do you have a loss of interest in sexual activities (libido, desire)?
  • Do you have a loss of arousal (tingling in the genitals or breasts; vaginal moisture, warmth)?
  • Do you have a loss of response (weaker or absent orgasm)?
  • Do you have any pain with intercourse (vaginal penetration)? If yes, how long ago did the pain start? Please describe the pain: Pain with penetration? Pain inside? Feels dry?
I continue to be amazed by the responses from my patients. Sixty percent of my patients have experienced a loss of interest in sexual activities, 45 percent have a loss of arousal, and 45 percent a loss of sexual response. And when I talk to them, they are
  • Perplexed—because they don’t understand what’s changed.
  • Disappointed—because they expected there to be more.
  • Frustrated—because they don’t know what to do about it.
And when you carry those numbers from my practice to the rest of the country–well, more than 44 million women are aged 40 to 65 in the US alone. Some 6,000 of us reach menopause every day. And at least half of us experience sexual problems with menopause. Probably more. That’s a lot of disappointed women. And a lot of disappointed men, too. But you know what it means? Those symptoms you think are setting you apart, making you the odd woman out? They’re not unusual. You’d be more unusual if you sailed through perimenopause and menopause without symptoms. So speak up! Talk to your health care provider about what you’re experiencing. Read sites like ours to learn more about your options for compensating for changes that aren’t making you happy. Talk to your friends and sisters about your experiences. We don’t give up reading when our eyesight weakens—we snag some cheaters from the drugstore. We don’t have to just accept the changes if we don’t want to. We’re smart, resourceful, and can do what it takes to live the lives we want to live.

3 Responses

Dr. Barb
Dr. Barb

July 06, 2015

You make an interesting point in noting the age groups that are studied (or not studied!). This is quite consistent in science, and the sexual studies lack data on older women, as a rule. The group of older women is often included in surveys, but less often in clinical studies. I’m quite aware that sexuality plays a role for individuals throughout their lives, never assuming that they are no longer able/interested. Certainly as we age more factors interfere in remaining sexually active, chronic disease, joint disease, medication interference, loss of a partner to name a few, but that doesn’t mean their sexual self is absent and they don’t have continued thoughts/desires.

Margaret
Margaret

July 06, 2015

Your message is very timely. Very down hearten about having so much difficulty sexually. When I have finally reached an age where I honor myself, own my sexual self ,only to find it very uncomfortable. Did think about this part of life being so hard. Wish there was a magic pill!!

Dinda
Dinda

July 06, 2015

It was somewhat discouraging to me that your statistics included only women between 40 and 65. It has been my experience that everything is more or less physically fine until the later 60’s, but I’m now concerned about the 70’s since my partner is in his later 70’s and still interested in more than a good night kiss. Does the medical practice give up on those later years? I think that it would be reassuring to younger people that the libido is never truly gone.

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