|Talking About Sex: Female Sexual Dysfunction
by Lynne Wendler, Diagnosed Stage IIIC in June 1999
I attended a wonderful session at the Ovarian Cancer National Alliances annual conference titled, Female Sexual Dysfunction: A Mind-Body Approach by Cheryl B. Iglesia, M.D FACOG. Doctor Iglesia is the Director of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery in the Departments of Ob/Gyn. and Urology at Washington Hospital Center in Washington D.C.
Due to the sensitive subject matter I was a little apprehensive going into the session. Dr. Iglesia warm, down-to-earth manner and sense of humor quickly broke down the barriers and helped me to feel very comfortable.
Whats the Problem?
If your sex life isnt as wonderful as you had hoped, youre not alone. Forty-three percent (43%) of women in the U.S. report dissatisfaction with their sexual function according to Laumanns study published in JAMA in 1999.
The main reasons for this dissatisfaction are lack of interest in sex, arousal difficulties (lubrication), pain during sex, anxiety about performance, and lack of orgasm. Many medications such as SSRI anti-depressants such as Prozac, Beta blockers (for high blood pressure) oral contraceptive pills, and amphetamines can cause a lack of sexual desire.
Some of the events that contribute to sexual dysfunction are vaginal birth trauma, hysterectomy (removal of uterus), oophorectomy (removal of ovaries) and menopause. Most ovarian cancer survivors have experienced several, if not all, of the events that cause sexual dysfunction.
Ovarian Cancers Impact on Sexuality
To compound the problem, ovarian cancer also has a negative impact on our sexuality. If 43% of the general population of American women is unhappy with their sex lives, imagine how prevalent it is for us! Due to our ovarian cancer we may have body-image issues related to our surgical scars, weight gain or loss, edema, or an ostomy.
The removal of the ovaries and the subsequent loss of estrogen causes sexual dysfunction (especially if the survivor was pre-menopausal when diagnosed with OVCA). Oophorectomies lead to atrophy and loss of elasticity in the vagina which can cause painful intercourse. Removal of the ovaries can also lead to loss of sexual desire since 50% of our testosterone is produced in the ovaries. With testosterone deficiencies there is a decreased sensitivity to sexual stimulation in the nipples and in the clitoris. Our mental states such as depression, anxiety, and fear can also negatively impact our sexuality. Is it any wonder were having trouble in this area?!
Defining the Problem?
So whats the answer? Well, it depends on the cause of the problem. To manage your sexuality concerns its important to have open discussions with your partner and to educate yourselves about the causes and potential solutions. Dont be afraid to get professional help if needed; youre worth it. Getting plenty of rest and exercise are simple lifestyle changes that can help your sex life. Remember that this is a multi-faceted problem since sexuality is a complex play of nerves, hormones, glands, and psyche.
Hope and Solutions
The good news is that theres hope and help for our problems. The most common type of female sexual disorder is loss of sexual desire. Others are problems with arousal, pain, and lack of orgasm.
Desire Disorder: Erotica and Testosterone Replacements
Some ways to increase your sexual desire are to consider whats sexy to you.
Since most of us are testosterone-deficient due to the loss of our ovaries, you may want to ask your physician about testosterone replacements such as:
Arousal Disorder: Erotica, Lubricants, and Medicine
Most of these lubricants can be purchased online at www.drugstore.com. If you take an anti-depressant, you may want to switch to Wellbutrin since it has fewer sexual side effects than SSRIs. Some women use complementary and alternatives medicines. Please check with your doctor before taking these:
Pain Disorder: Medical/Surgical Intervention, Hormones, and Alternate Sexual Practices
Many women find alternate sexual practices to be a solution to their vaginal sexual
pain disorder. When considering these practices please discuss them with your partner and
think about what you feel comfortable with; it should feel good physically and emotionally
satisfying to you.
Orgasm Disorder Solutions
Some solutions for orgasm disorder include:
Other devices that helps women achieve orgasm are vibrators.
Personal massagers/ Vibrators are available from the following websites:
10 Tips for Improving Your Sex Life:
Resources for Survivors:
Professional help is also available from the following resources from the following spurces
Although most of us experience some degree of sexual dysfunction due to our OVCA diagnosis, the good news is that our sex lives can get better. If you are considering medication to enhance your sexual function, please discuss it with one of your doctors. Of course prescription medications should be obtained only from one of your doctors. Heres to feeling better. Cheers!
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