Women's Sexual Health Archive


Survey finds wide use of compounded postmenopausal hormones

Research we're watching

A national survey published Sept. 30, 2015, in Menopause indicates almost a third of women who take hormones at menopause are using compounded hormones—estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone prepared by a pharmacist according to a prescription. Such preparations aren't FDA-approved.

The survey, conducted by the North American Menopause Society, asked 3,700 women ages 40 to 84 about their hormone use at menopause. They were queried about the benefits they expected, the benefits they actually received, the side effects they experienced, and their health histories.

Addyi is not a "female Viagra," but it can open an important discussion

Many of my patients, colleagues, friends, and even neighbors have asked me about the new drug flibanserin (Addyi), which the FDA recently approved for treatment of low sexual desire in women. Flibanserin has generated more questions, comments, and media inquiries for me than I've ever experienced in my 20-year career as an obstetrician/gynecologist. While there are several medications that improve sexual function in men (including Viagra, the most famous one), flibanserin is the first to be approved for that purpose in women. Here are what I consider the relevant facts about flibanserin, and what I say to my patients.

The "pink pill" works differently than the "blue pill"—Viagra.

Image: Thinkstock

A better sex life requires more than popping a pill

Image: iStock

The never-ending advertisements for erectile dysfunction drugs seem to suggest that popping a pill is all it takes to guarantee a great sex life for men dealing with this challenging problem.

But a satisfying sex life takes a lot more than functioning body parts — erectile dysfunction can set in motion a cycle of emotional and relationship problems. And "fixing" the ability to achieve an erection may uncover other sources of sexual dysfunction, such as low libido, difficulties with arousal, or sexual issues in a partner.

Pelvic organ prolapse: You're not alone

Exchanging information with friends is one way to remove the stigma of pelvic organ prolapse.

Image: Thinkstock

Few women realize how common pelvic prolapse is—and how easily treated. Here are five things you should know.

Stay a step ahead of urinary tract infections

Drink plenty of fluids to help flush out bacteria in the urinary tract. Drink enough each day so that your urine is almost clear in color.

Image: Thinkstock

Keep hydrated, and empty your bladder often to stave off these risky infections.

Doctors often mum about sex after a heart attack

A week or so after having a heart attack, if you can take a brisk walk without any heart-related symptoms, it's fine to have sex. So say the guidelines from the American Heart Association. But most doctors don't share this advice with their patients, according to a study in the December 2014 Circulation.

The study included more than 2,300 women and 1,100 men between the ages of 18 and 55. Just 12% of women and 19% of the men reported receiving any counseling about sexual activity within a month of their heart attacks. Those who did get advice were often given restrictions (such as to limit sex or to take a more passive role) that are not supported by evidence or guidelines. Being female or older was linked to a lower likelihood of receiving counseling.

Study identifies effective testosterone dose for women

Testosterone applied to the skin has been demonstrated to improve sex drive in women. However, there has been uncertainty about the optimal dose—one that works well without unacceptable side effects.

A study in the journal Menopause, published online in August, may fill that void. Researchers in Australia tested both 5-mg and 10-mg doses of a standardized 1% testosterone cream in seven healthy postmenopausal women with imperceptible blood levels of testosterone. They found that applying the 5-mg dose to the upper arm daily for six weeks brought testosterone levels back into the normal premenopausal range, while using the 10-mg dose elevated levels above the premenopausal range. Neither dose was associated with masculinizing side effects.

Enjoying sex later in life

Images: Thinkstock

Doing things you used to enjoy at the beginning of your relationship may restore intimacy.

If sustaining intimacy is becoming more difficult, there are many approaches that can help.

Pill-free ways to improve your sex life

Exercise, smoking cessation, and alcohol moderation can help bring sexual activity back into the bedroom.

Sex is important to health. It revs up metabolism and may boost the immune system. Frequent sexual intercourse is associated with reduced heart attack risk. And it's fun. So why aren't we having more of it? "There are many reasons why sexual activity can diminish in older age, but many sexual problems can be overcome with appropriate interventions, especially if the problems are relatively new," says Dr. Jan Shifren, co-author of the Harvard Special Health Report Sexuality in Midlife and Beyond.

Matters of the heart: Sex and cardiovascular disease

Image: Thinkstock

Cardiovascular disease may change many aspects of your life, but sexual intimacy does not have to suffer as a result.

Thanks to early screening, lifesaving interventions, and sophisticated pharmacology, millions of people live full, active lives after a heart disease diagnosis. That can include sex. Although the physical and emotional strains of cardiovascular disease often take a toll on a couple's intimate activities, there is ample reason to persevere. "Sexual activity and sexual function are major quality-of-life issues for both men and women with cardiovascular disease," says Dr. Joanne Foody, director of cardiovascular wellness services at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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