Study Identifies Determinants of Sexual Dysfunction During Menopause

January 12, 2021
Aislinn Antrim, Assistant Editor

Several things are important to maintain a woman’s sexual function including positive sexual experiences, attitudes about sex, body image, and relationship intimacy.

Although it is well understood that sexual dysfunction can often occur during menopause, not all women experience this dysfunction at the same time or in the same ways. A new study found that women with secondary and higher education and a greater number of sexual partners over their lifetime were less likely to experience sexual dysfunction.

The investigators said hot flashes are easily the most common symptom of menopause, although the transition can also be accompanied by changes to a woman’s libido, sexual satisfaction, and overall sexual behavior. Because hormone therapy is the most effective treatment option to manage menopausal symptoms, the investigators focused on this option to determine why some women experience greater sexual dysfunction than others.

The study included more than 200 women aged 45 to 55 years. The researchers found that women with more anxious behaviors during sexual activity and those with more severe menopause symptoms have a greater risk.

Notably, hormone therapy was not found to mitigate the risk of sexual dysfunction and it did not play a major role in determining sexual behaviors. However, the investigators found that women using hormone therapy typically had better body esteem during sexual activities; better sexual function in all domains except for desire and interest; better quality of relationships; and fewer sexual complaints other than arousal problems. Several factors are important to maintain a woman’s sexual function, including positive sexual experiences, attitudes about sex, body image, and relationship intimacy, according to the study.

“These results are consistent with the findings of prior studies and emphasize that factors other than use of hormone therapy, such as higher importance of sex, positive attitudes toward sex, satisfaction with one’s partner, and fewer genitourinary symptoms associated with menopause appear to be protective and are linked to better sexual function across the menopause transition,” said Stephanie Faubion, MD, MBA, medical director at the North American Menopause Society, in a press release.

REFERENCE

Sexual dysfunction hits some women harder than others as they age [news release]. EurekAlert; January 6, 2020. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-01/tnam-sdh010621.php. Accessed January 7, 2020.