by Danita Napier, Nurse Practitioner, Prescott Women’s Clinic
Sexuality is an important aspect of health for men and women of all ages. Researchers have identified sex between couples as a basic mutual need.
Sexual dysfunction during the menopausal years is a common and multifaceted complaint. While the majority of biological changes in women’s bodies during menopause are predictable, each woman’s interpretations of these changes is very personal and unique.
Generally speaking, women who ask their health care provider for hormone testing are experiencing perimenopause or menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, irritability or sleep disturbance and will be prescribed an antidepressant or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
This should provide mood stabilization, relief of hot flashes and ease fragmented sleep but very frequently results in a negative side
effect of diminished or absent libido. Diminished libido can have far-reaching effects, with immediate effects on self-esteem and marital relationships.
The population most affected by hormone deficiencies are menopausal women with the average age being 51. Also included are women who have undergone surgical menopause at a younger age. Potential risks for untreated diminished libido in menopausal women are decreased self-esteem, body image distortion and depression.
Current research has proven the benefit of hormone therapy for menopausal women for the relief of symptoms, including decreased libido.
Menopausal women in general seek relief of hot flashes, sleep disturbance, irritability, fatigue, decreased mental clarity, vaginal dryness, pain during intercourse and decreased libido. Sometimes women only want relief of hot flashes and sleep disturbance, with libido being a minimal problem or not perceived as a problem at all.
Stress between life partners can affect the entire family. Due to bodily changes during menopause, women may develop a perception of inadequate role fulfillment, which can have psychological effects including depression. This can lead to decreased coping skills and stress on the body, which opens the door for disease processes.
Women can experience great frustration in facing the changes brought on with menopause, in addition to the difficulty faced when trying to find treatment for their symptoms. Providing relief of symptoms for women during this transition phase requires great attention to detail and tailoring treatment on an individualized basis.