February is the month we commonly associate with our hearts, both physically and emotionally. As women’s health care providers, we place an emphasis on both aspects of a woman’s heart, and not just in the month of February.
It is one thing to help a woman remain physically well and maintain or develop a heart-healthy lifestyle, but many women, particularly in their 40s, 50s and beyond, fall short when it comes to inquiring about maintaining a satisfying and emotionally fulfilling sex life.
Dyspareunia (painful or difficult intercourse) is often attributed to the natural hormonal decline that starts in our 40s leading to vaginal dryness and inelasticity of the tissues, and makes sex hurt. It’s stressful on a relationship and not something women willingly want to discuss with their partners [Insert guilt, shame, fear of abandonment, ageism here]. Without help, the only options a woman sees is to endure the pain, or avoid sex altogether; both causing rifts in a couple’s intimate relationship.
As a gynecologist, if I ask the simple question about pain with sex, I often open the floodgate of stored-up fear and frustration and relief that someone has asked the question AND THAT SOMEONE HAS SOME ANSWERS (see Bringin’ Sexy Back 2 next Monday).
It is estimated that 1 in 2 women over the age of 40 experience pain with intercourse secondary to evolving vaginal atrophy associated with hormonal decline; a statistic that in my experience, is grossly underreported.