Many Physicians Fail to Bring Up Sexual Concerns with Middle-Aged Women

OCTOBER 05, 2016
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick
women’s health, OBGYN, sex, sexual health, The North American Menopause Society 27th Annual Meeting, NAMS 2016

Do sexual concerns hurt the quality of romantic relationships? Many would probably nod. But data on older women shows changes over the years.

Researchers from the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center in Ohio aimed to find how women’s outlooks on sex vary as they enter menopausal ages. Their findings were presented at The North American Menopause Society 27th Annual Meeting (NAMS 2016) in Orlando, Florida.

More than 500 women ages 40 to 75, who were in relationships at the time, were included in the analysis. The participants took an online questionnaire that assessed sexual health concerns and what they thought would be personal consequences associated with them. In addition, it collected data on sociodemographic information, help-seeking motivation, and how those sexual concerns could impact intimacy and relationship quality. The top two sexual concerns (across all ages) were diminished or no sexual interest and diminished or inadequate vaginal lubrication. Women in their 40s reported the greatest negative impact of these sexual concerns on their relationships. All of the women, except for those in their 70s, said that sexual activity was important to their overall quality of life. However, looking at the cohort overall, the sexual concerns only “somewhat decreased” their ability to enjoy their relationships.

“Although the women in this study felt that their sexual satisfaction could improve, the majority remained happy with the quality of their partnered relationships, demonstrating that sex may become less of a determinant of overall relationship satisfaction over time,” explained lead author Sheryl Kingsberg, PhD, chief of the Division of Behavioral Medicine at the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

This questionnaire also confirmed the need for better communication between healthcare providers and middle-aged women. Of the participants, 52% had not talked about their sexual concerns with their doctor. But out of those who had, 70% had to initiate the conversation.

The sexual concerns are there for women ages 40 to 75, but actually addressing them is a whole other issue.

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