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Sex in Menopause City

Study: Sexual Dysfunction in Women Is Not Automatic as Years Pass

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After comparing these study results to earlier and ongoing findings, the researchers concluded that the basis of any sexual problems that did occur at midlife could not be drawn from menopause status or age alone. Instead, they write, "Life stressors, contextual factors, past sexuality, and mental health problems are more significant predictors of midlife women's sexual interest than menopause status itself."

The study was one of just several research papers presented in the journal this month on the subject of female sexual dysfunction. All strived to shed much needed light on a subject that some believe has been hidden in the shadows too long.

For NYU professor of gynecology Steven Goldstein, MD, the findings validate what he has long suspected to be true.

"It's quite wonderful that this is being studied and that the results reinforce what I, and I think many doctors have long believed -- that this whole issue of changes in midlife sexual function is not a simple case of 'take away the hormones, take away the desire,'" Goldstein tells WebMD.

Moreover, he adds that "As we go forward, understanding all of the complex, non-hormonal elements that affect a woman's sexuality remains crucial, particularly when deciding who is a candidate for a hormonal treatment that might help increase desire and who might benefit more from simple lifestyle changes," says Goldstein.

Hormones and Your Sexual Thunder

Indeed, many experts contend it is no small coincidence that much of the attention now focused on female sexual dysfunction is fueled by the pending FDA approval of a testosterone patch, a hormone treatment that, along with estrogen, is believed to influence sexual desire in some women.

The fact that hormone levels decline as a woman ages further energizes the suggestion that replacing dwindling hormones is the road to postmenopausal nirvana.

And though testosterone, alone or with estrogen supplements, may prove helpful for some women, even some doctors involved in the testing of the new patch believe, as this new study indicates, that it will not be the panacea for all women experiencing sexual difficulties.

"You can have a woman with low testosterone switch to a new partner and suddenly her libido is just fine, or you can have a woman with great testosterone levels who is in a lousy relationship, or who is suffering from depression, and her desire is basically blotto," says endocrinologist Glenn D. Braunstein, MD, chairman of the department of medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and a prominent researcher involved in the recent clinical trials of the testosterone patch.

In the end, says Braunstein, the new sex study is valid, and he agrees that sexual dysfunction in women is "a multi-factorial issue" involving not only hormones, but also a host of other factors, including depression, a bad relationship, side effects of medication, and numerous life and job stressors.

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