Expert tips to help spark a conversation about women's health issues
Exercise, eating well and getting more sleep are all leading health goals for women. However, there are many health concerns that women overlook for numerous reasons. Some they feel aren't a priority and others are simply too difficult to talk about.
One commonly overlooked example is women's sexual health, despite the fact that it's an area that affects many aspects of a woman’s overall well-being.
“Research suggests the benefits of sexual wellness may extend beyond the bedroom,” says Dr. Leah S. Millheiser, director of the female sexual medicine program at Stanford University. “In fact, sexual health can affect self-esteem, body image, performance at work and interaction with peers and family. This is why it is extremely important for women to talk to their partners and health care providers if they are having any sexual concerns.”
If you are experiencing any issues with sexual problems, it can feel isolating, but you're not alone. According to research published in the journal of Obstetricians and Gynecology, nearly 40 percent of women experience sexual troubles at some point in their lives.
Furthermore, recent survey data shows that 48 percent of premenopausal women age 21-49 say their sex drive is lower now than in the past. Additionally, 93 percent of women believe that having low sexual desire can put a strain on their relationship according to a Harris Poll survey of 2,501 women conducted on behalf of the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA).
If sexual problems are persistent and cause personal distress, it may be a medical condition called female sexual dysfunction (FSD). The most common type of FSD is low desire, or hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), which may impact as many as 4 million premenopausal women in the United States.
Even though many women may have FSD, it is still underdiagnosed and undertreated, and talking about it can be difficult. To elevate the conversation and educate about FSD, ASHA has partnered with leading experts in women’s sexual health — with support from Valeant Pharmaceuticals North America LLC — to launch the Find My Spark educational program.
You can visit www.findmyspark.com to learn more about FSD, take an interactive quiz to help identify potential common sexual troubles, review tips to open up a dialogue with your healthcare provider or therapist and more.
"Taking the leap and having that conversation about your sexual troubles is often the most difficult part," says Dr. Millheiser. "From there, you can move forward and determine a plan to improve intimacy and other potential troubles.”
Dr. Millheiser offers three smart tips for talking to your partner about sexual health concerns:
Choose the right time: Bumper-to-bumper traffic or at the diner where you may be interrupted aren’t the best places to talk FSD. You want to give both yourself and your partner enough time to hear and be heard without any distractions. So set a date and time.
Don't rush the conversation: This isn’t a quick conversation. You’ll have a lot to say, as should your partner. Remember, the conversation might require a series of talks so both of you can communicate your thoughts clearly.
Seek outside help if necessary: You and your partner don’t have to do this alone. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about it one-on-one, therapy can help. A therapist can help create an environment where both you and your partner may feel more comfortable sharing feelings and coming up with solutions.
"Don't suffer in silence," Dr. Millheiser says. "Make an appointment with your healthcare provider to talk about next steps so you can create a plan to address your sexual health."