Women & Sex – Not Just About Hormones
Relationships, Other Factors Tied to Dysfunction in Middle-Aged Women
Oct. 25, 2006 -- As a woman nears menopause, her relationships -- not just
her hormones -- may affect her sex life.
That's according to two new studies on sexual dysfunction in women
The studies were presented at the American Society of Reproductive
Medicine's annual meeting in New Orleans.
The first study comes from researchers including John F. Randolph Jr., MD, a
professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan.
Randolph's team studied an ethnically diverse group of nearly 3,300 women
Every year for up to six years, the women provided blood samples and
reported how often they had wanted to have sex in the previous two weeks,
ranging from "never" to "daily."
The researchers measured the women's sex hormones in the blood samples. No
clinically meaningful patterns stood out with regard to sexual desire.
But the women's surveys yielded other clues.
Greater sexual desire was "very strongly associated" with factors
such as the women's satisfaction with their current relationship and the
availability of a sexual partner.
Lower BMI (body mass index), high self-rated health, and being premenopausal
were, to a more modest degree, linked to sexual desire.
The second study comes from researchers who included Clarisa Gracia, MD, of
the University of Pennsylvania.
They studied sexual function and interest in more than 400 healthy women
For three years, the women provided annual blood samples and completed
surveys about their sex lives.
The blood samples showed that low levels of a hormone called DHEAS were
associated with sexual dysfunction -- something Randolph's team didn't find to
be true in their study.
No other hormonal patterns stood out in this study.
But other aspects of the women's lives had an impact.
Postmenopausal women were about twice as likely as premenopausal women to
report problems with sexual functioning.
"Lubrication, orgasm, and pain were specific aspects of sexual
functioning negatively affected by menopause," the researchers write.
But menopause wasn't the only important factor.
Women without sexual partners, with high anxiety, and those with kids under
the age of 18 living at home were also more likely to note sexual dysfunction,
the study shows.
The bottom line from both studies: Hormones aren't the only influence on
women's sex lives around the time of menopause. Emotions and relationships may