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Sex in Menopause City

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

Hormones and Your Sexual Thunder continued...

"In and of themselves any one of these things may not make a difference, but put them altogether and you tip the balance enough to cause a real problem for some women," Braunstein tells WebMD.

 

Judith Reichman, author of I'm Not In the Mood: What Every Woman Should Know About Improving Her Libido, agrees, emphasizing that sexual problems can occur at any age and that women are not wired to be "passive victims of hormonal dysfunction."

"Yes, hormones matter, and in some women they can make some difference, but I think what this study really teaches us is that our sexuality is a many splendored thing, and when something goes wrong you can't say it's only hormones, or it's only self-image, or it's only the relationship. For women it's always a combination of factors, and a simple Viagra-like solution will never be the answer for us," says Reichman, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

As such, she tells WebMD that "a doctor has to look at and address all the possibilities because just throwing hormones at a patient and expecting that to do it all, well, that just doesn't do it."

The Really Good News: There Is Something You Can Do

Though there may not be a "magic sex bullet" right for all women, experts are increasingly acknowledging that least some of what may be putting that uncomfortable lump in your midlife mattress are factors clearly under your control.

As the new study indicates, this can include confronting new (or old) demons that may be causing depression and taking medication when necessary, dealing with relationship issues that need fixing (or sometimes even finding someone new), getting a thorough medical checkup including tests for low thyroid function and iron deficiency, as well as paying attention to any sexual side effects of medications. Perhaps most important for many women is considering how past sexual experiences or cultural or personal mindsets may be influencing how you view sex -- and the definition of sexual intimacy -- in your later years.

"Many women head straight into menopause believing that their sex life will suffer, and they act accordingly. I think the important point this study makes is that this is not a 'given' for every woman or even most women," says Reichman.

Goldstein flips the coin, encouraging women to also not "buy into a false bill of goods" when it comes to sexual expectations as birthdays sail by.

"One of the misnomers being foisted on many women is that a decline in sexual function must equate with distress, to the point where some of my patients begin believing that there is clearly something wrong with them just because they don't feel like swinging from the chandeliers, " says Goldstein.

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