Sunday, April 22, 2007

Does Your Doctor Talk to You about Older-Age Sexuality?

Have you ever consulted your doctor about your changing sexual responsiveness or about reclaiming your sexuality when you have a medical condition that makes sex more difficult?

What happened when you asked your doctor for advice about sex? How did he or she respond? Did you get the information you needed? And for the benefit of the medical professionals reading this -- how would you have liked your doctor to respond to questions about sex? What advice would you give professionals about how and when to talk to their older patients about their sexuality?

I am planning to write a magazine article about this topic, so please feel free to comment here or email me and let me know if you'd be willing to be interviewed.

As background, I wrote the post that follows in March 2006, and I'd like to revive it now that I have many more readers. I invite your comments.

[post originally dated 3/29/06:]

I've been speaking to groups in the midwest and the San Francisco Bay Area, and corresponding with readers who send me emails. Over and over, this comment comes up: older-age sexuality is a huge gap in the education of medical professionals.

I keep meeting doctors, nurses, therapists, and alternative practitioners who are hungry for information for their patients and clients -- and often for themselves. One woman's eyes got teary when she said, "I've been so lonely wishing I could talk to someone about this."

I've heard from women who have read my book and ask, "Why didn't my doctor ever tell me that I have to 'use it or lose it'?" These are usually older women who are not in relationships right now and didn't realize the importance of internal massage, regular orgasms, and Kegels to keep their vaginas tuned up and healthy, or penetation in the future might be painful. (For more information about what to do, read Vaginal Rejuvenation & Health from
A Woman's Touch, a wonderful sexuality resource center which I had the pleasure of visiting in Madison and Milwaukee.)

I'm also talking to many women over sixty who didn't know that lubricants and sex toys can enhance their sexual pleasure -- solo or with a partner -- by heightening arousal and speeding up orgasm. They thought that slow arousal and difficulty reaching orgasm were a part of aging that they had to accept. I'm distressed that many doctors tell women this -- often without running tests to see whether hormone levels or other conditions which may be treated might be affecting sexual response.

I'm not dumping on doctors, just on their training. I've been thrilled by the response of medical professionals to my book. One Santa Rosa, CA gynecologist bought 14 copies of my book for her patients -- and then, after she had given them all away, she bought 10 more!

Several readers have written in about their medical challenges since this post originally appeared. To read more on this topic, check on "medical attitudes towards sex and aging" or "cancer" in the "labels" column to the right, and you'll see other related posts.

8 comments:

  1. MotherLodeBethMarch 29, 2006

    You are such a gift, and I so hope thousands of health care professionals and others take your wisdom to heart. ~Beth

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  2. Beth, thank you! I started out writing this book in order to give myself and other women over 60 a voice about our sexuality and a forum to learn from each other.

    Since the book came out, though, and I started talking to people all over the country about this topic, I've discovered that we not only need to speak out -- we need to empower ourselves to ask questions, get answers, and be heard.

    It's not enough to talk with each other -- we also want to be heard by health professionals, the media, women and men who will be following our paths soon, and our society at large. Whew, that's a big audience, isn't it?

    Joan

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  3. Keep up the good work Joan! Your energy and enthusiasm and your gift of story-telling will help change this for many women. I know it's hard to be a pioneer, but I'm glad you're doing out there talking about the importance of sexuality for our whole lives.

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  4. I've been studying natural health care for several decades, and I know that our bodies are always changing, our cells are constantly being renewed. This process does slow down gradually as we get older, but is also lasts until the day we die. So I think it must be possible to renew vaginal tissue at any age with some diligent work.

    It makes me want to cry, that doctors don't tell (women) patients "use it or lose it."

    Apparently this does have a lot to do with training. According to Rebecca Chalker, author of a great book called "The Clitoral Truth" the clitoris is still left out of medical textbooks or at best is only partially included and/or poorly labeled. Chapter 2 of her book is called "The Case of the Missing Clitoris, An Anatomical Detective Story."

    My husband's doctor actually had the idea for him to go on testosterone replacement as a way to help him manage his depression. Then I got into the picture and we decided it might help him sexually as well. (It has.) She was wonderful about it all. We both went to see her about this issue and she really listened to us. It seemed to me that she keeps up to date on the latest health information.

    We then went to a highly recommended, Vanderbilt educated urologist to have my husband's "stuff" checked out before starting this therapy, and he told us he didn't think testosterone replacement would help us. We had to push for him to go ahead with a series of shots. My husband's family practice doctor helped us with this by telling us what to say to convince him.

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  5. Doctors that are in generial pratice if they care for their older paitance ability to have or enjoy sex should refer them to specilest in that field.

    I was 59 when prostatee cancer hit me and active in sex yet. I had no idea what really would take place after the treatments.

    During the treatments I stayed away from sex because I did not want to share radiation with my wife at that time.

    After the treatments I no longer had ejaculations that produced a sperm like substance. Instead I had a clear liquid like glue in it's place.

    I found that after 4 months I could no longer have an erection, that was the pits for me I figured I was done with sex forever even though my mind wanted it.

    After 1 year I started to see a urinoligest who gave me VIAGRA it did not work real well. Soon my testicals began to shrink and my pinus started to reciede. I could not see how it would ever work again.

    Last year I saw another doctor and he gave me injections that worked very well. Now their was hope. Since then my testicels have come back and my penus seems to be more solid and actieve.

    For those men that have ED I strongly sugest that you see a doctor their are many causes for ED that can be cured.

    Their are also Pumps that work well and Implants which are a last resort.

    I also became a strong believer of the use it or louse it theroy.

    As for me I am definetly going to use it this week and maybe over time it will return to back when I was 20 so much for wishfull thinking.

    I also recomen doctors advice for the lady's what do us men know really. Other then where our zipper is.

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  6. The comment above makes me think about how we don't exactly have specialists in the field of sex per se. We have gynecologists and urologists. Gynecology especially is concerned with reproductive health, with sexual health thrown in. When you're a post menopausal female your reproductive life is over but your sex life could still be alive and kicking. Urologists are better about dealing with sexual challenges. Maybe either reproductive health specialists need to learn more about sexual health for adults of all ages, or there needs to be a new medical specialty.

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  7. I think it was great that you posted a whole article on sex toys for some reason alot of people shy away from posting sex toys articles.

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  8. When I was being diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer my wife and I were surprised to find that though her gynecologists are quite comfortable to have me in the room when she has a pelvic exam, pap smear, etc, the urologists were very uncomfortable to have her in the room when they did a rectal exam on me.


    We did not back down and the doctors involved finally did, but they clearly were uncomfortable about it.


    The whole thing shocked me as I wondered just how helpful these guys could be about sexuality issues if they were so thrown off having a woman in the room. I never asked them any questions on that topic after this.


    The surgeon did assure me that a cadaver could have an erection with modern technology, but that's about as far as it went.


    He did do the procedure well, no leaks, minimal nerve damage, and has been very supportive, so I don't blame him. Maybe we're asking them to be more things than anyone really can.

    ReplyDelete

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-- Joan