Lauren Streicher, MD, explains why more people should be paying attention to women's sexual health issues.
Last week, to launch my new book, Love Sex Again: A Gynecologist Finally Solves the Issues That Are Sabotaging Your Sex Life, I scheduled a community sexual health seminar. When I rented the biggest venue at the hospital, I was cautioned that it would be difficult to find 330 women to fill the room and to consider combining my talk with an orthopedic surgeon who would talk about hip replacement. Being the eternal optimist, I rented the large room anyway and declined the other speaker. One hour after I announced the seminar on a local TV show, the event was sold out.
There were thousands of women who tried to get tickets to the event. The calls and e-mails started pouring in from desperate women, pouring out their stories of ruined relationships, painful intercourse, and the inability to have an orgasm and pleaded to get bumped up on the wait list. Talk about TMI! But desperate women do desperate things. This of course validated what I knew all along. With approximately 40% of women age 18-80 having some sexual difficulty, and about 60% of the women over the age of 50 having a problem, there are literally millions of women who need help... help that they are not getting. Those that are brave enough to broach the topic with their doctor are rarely given solutions to salvage a waning sex life beyond “try a lubricant” and “have a special date night.”
I wrote Love Sex Again: A Gynecologist Finally Fixes the Issues That Are Sabotaging Your Sex Life to give women real information, and real solutions, about the physical, hormonal and medical aspects of maintaining sexual health with empathy, humor, and best of all, no stirrups. This is not another book about broken relationships, but a comprehensive book about broken vaginas!
Love Sex Again is for the woman who either never had, or once had a satisfying sex life that was robbed from her by the ravages of menopause, surgery, cancer, medication, heart disease or other illnesses and wants to reclaim that part of her life. The time is clearly overdue to start the conversation and tackle taboo topics that impact on "SexABILITY," my term for the ability to enjoy fulfilling, exciting sex by working with, if not overcoming, your body's unique challenges.
This is a book that will give you information (and solutions) that your own doctor, likely has not. Information like:
Your diabetes may be getting in the way of your ability to have an orgasm: Your doctor asked about decreased sensation in your feet, but he or she didn’t mention that your clitoris might also be a little numb from vascular or neurologic changes that commonly occur with diabetes.
Your birth control pills can dry up your vagina: You know that menopause is years away yet lately, even though you are totally in the mood, your vagina is more like the Sahara desert than the waterfall it used to be. While not typically the case, some women may experience this distressing side effect from hormonal contraception.
The recurrent vaginal infections may be because you use petroleum jelly as a lubricant: Petroleum jelly makes your chapped lips feel so much better that it stands to reason that it would be the perfect product to keep your other lips moist as well. Unfortunately, petroleum jelly has been associated with double the risk of bacterial vaginosis, the most common cause of odor and irritating vaginal discharge in women of childbearing age.
Infertility treatments don’t have to ruin your sex life: You are not imagining it. Sex with a purpose, takes the sexy out of sex. A 2012 study out of the Indiana University School of Public Health confirmed what many couples have already figured out – assisted reproductive techniques like IVF, can cause problems with sexual desire, interest and satisfaction. As expected, “mood-type symptoms” that could be attributed to the stress of going through fertility treatments, like sadness and anxiety, were huge, but the study also found that women had physical issues such as vaginal pain and dryness.
Menopause is not the end of your sex life; it is the beginning of a better sex life: Just because your estrogen tank is on empty doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy slippery, slidey sex. Estrogen is not poison, and Love Sex Again explains why if you take estrogen, you are not risking your life in the name of a decent orgasm. And, for those who can’t or prefer not to take estrogen, plenty of alternatives are offered.
The time is long overdue to elevate the importance of sexual health and give women the language and permission to talk about their sexual issues, just as the guys have had for years.
So join me in starting a national conversation. And to all the TV producers and magazine editors who have declined coverage of the book (you know who you are!) and have told me, “there’s not that much interest in women’s sexual health,” I will respectfully say, you are wrong. Just ask the thousands of women who couldn’t get into my seminar. It’s not just my seminar that got sold out. It’s women that are getting sold out.