Brier Jirka, a sex therapist with the Methodist Physicians Clinic Women’s Center, blogs for LiveWellNebraska.com
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15 years, one month and one day.
That’s how long it took, since the approval of Viagra, for the Food and Drug Administration to approve Osphena, a medication for treating female sexual dysfunction.
I heard the news at a recent women’s sexual health conference in New Orleans, and myself and other attendees applauded the progress that has finally been made on behalf of women.
Osphena is the first and only alternative to vaginal creams and steroidal estrogens for women with menopause-induced dyspareunia.
Simply put, dyspareunia is painful sexual intercourse; it is a symptom of vulvar vaginal atrophy which often surfaces during menopause. And while common, most women don’t want to shout about it from the rooftops.
One of the conference presenters, Dr. Irwin Goldstein, has been involved in sexual dysfunction research since the 1970s. He shared some interesting statistics regarding women and menopause.
• Women spend one-third of their life in menopause.
• Only 20 to 25 percent of women will seek medical care post menopause.
• 70 percent of physicians never/rarely asked about dyspareunia in postmenopausal women.
• Only 7 percent of women (out of 32 million) who have vulvar vaginal atrophy get a prescription treatment.
Knowing these facts, why did it take so long to have the conversation?
I think our society sees male sexual dysfunction as “okay” and less shameful, in part due to the amount of Viagra and Cialis commercials on TV. It’s out there, it’s talked about and it tends to be seen as a physical issue, like the inability to have an erection or ejaculation concerns.
People view female sexual dysfunction as a different story and more taboo, mostly focused on the desire aspect of sex. But the reality is that both men and women deal with physical and mental sexual issues.
However, I sense a change coming. Women are becoming more vocal about their health care needs and are no longer settling for “just feeling okay.” They want to resolve their intimacy issues and may soon have another tool in which to do so.
Osphena is not yet on the market and no release date has been given. Like Viagra, it won’t be a magic pill, rather one of many tools. Women still need a multi-disciplinary approach.
For example, at our Pelvic Pain and Sexual Medicine Center, on top of medication, women have the option of going through physical therapy and mental health therapy as well. Combining these options will lead to the best results.
I’m not suggesting one way or another that women take Osphena when it hits shelves. I simply want people to know that sexual medicine research is becoming less one sided toward men. As more and more women ask their doctors about sexual dysfunction, we’re starting to take the issue more seriously.
There is even a campaign called WISH, Women’s Initiative in Sexual Health, that allows people to sign a petition to bring more awareness to the topic.
However distressing, it’s important to know that this condition is treatable and should no longer be considered taboo.
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