In honor of September being Sexual Health Awareness Month, SCNM's Dr. Nichole Shiffler has given us a detailed look at the importance of female sexual health. Read what she had to say below!
As a naturopathic primary care physician I address all aspects of health. Sex and sexual complaints in our society may be taboo and tend to not be discussed in office as often as they should. Sex is an important aspect of health and changes throughout our lifetimes. When discussing healthy sexual habits with patients, I have noticed expected changes among age groups.
In my female patients below the age of 40, our discussions are focused on healthy sex habits and decreasing risks. Preventing or encouraging pregnancy is also a focus in this age group. This is an optimal time to discuss guidelines and best practices for screenings. Some signs of sexual dysfunction seen in younger populations are typically pain with intercourse that may be attributed to pelvic muscle tonicity or potential endometriosis--a disease where endometrial tissue can be found outside of the uterus. There are a range of treatment options available to these patients and early diagnosis is helpful to prevent worsening of symptoms in the future.
Recommendations for women in their 20’s-30’s:
Patients older than 40 years present with concerns that most often are linked to alterations in estrogen, progesterone or testosterone. This would include symptoms of vaginal dryness, low libido and pain with intercourse. Chronic disease, obesity and tobacco use can also affect sexual and reproductive health.
Recommendations for women 40+:
There are many benefits to sex, such as surges of oxytocin that are released during an orgasm, which can decrease stress and improve bonding with your partner. This requires a finely orchestrated system of hormones, blood flow and sensation. Speaking to your physician about your concerns related to sexual health will help you to achieve better overall health. I have used a wide variety of treatments options with my patients including botanical medicine, hormone replacement and acupuncture.
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