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Maturitas. 2011 Nov;70(3):210-5. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2011.07.015. Epub 2011 Sep 22.

Sexual satisfaction in the elderly female population: A special focus on women with gynecologic pathology.

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1
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Yale University School of Medicine, 333 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06510, USA. elena.ratner@yale.edu

Abstract

SEXUAL FUNCTION IN AGING WOMEN:

Sexuality is an integral part of human expressions. Mental health plays a major role in sexuality. Several psychological interventions are proposed to increase the sexual quality of life in older women with diverse gynecologic pathology. A biopsychosocial approach utilizing brief strategies can be easily implemented in clinics to help women of all ages increase their sexual quality of life. THE IMPACT OF FEMALE PELVIC FLOOR DISORDERS ON SEXUAL FUNCTION IN OLDER WOMEN: Female pelvic floor disorders include urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and fecal incontinence. These disorders increase dramatically with increasing age. Urinary incontinence has been demonstrated to have a negative impact on a woman's sexual function. Among sexually active older women with urinary incontinence, 22% report being moderately or extremely worried that sexual activity would cause urine loss. An increased prevalence of sexual distress [9% (6/76) vs. 1.3% (2/216), p=0.005] has been reported in sexually active women over 40 years old with urinary incontinence. Treatment of urinary incontinence can improve sexual function in older women. Among sexually active women (N=53) who underwent midurethral slings procedures for the correction of urinary incontinence, increased coital frequency, decrease fear of incontinence with coitus, decreased embarrassment due to incontinence was reported six months after surgery. Pelvic organ prolapse, a hernia of the vagina resulting in a visible vaginal bulge, has also been associated with a negative impact on sexual function. Women with advanced pelvic organ prolapse (POP-Q stage III or IV) have been demonstrated to have decreased body image reporting that they are more self-conscious about their appearance [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 4.7; 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.9, 51], feel less feminine (AOR 4.0; 95% CI 1.2, 15) and less sexually attractive (AOR 4.6; 95% CI 1.4, 17) compared with women who have normal pelvic support. Both vaginal and abdominal approaches to surgical correction of pelvic organ prolapse have been demonstrated to improve sexual function.

MENTAL HEALTH:

Mental health plays a major role in older woman's sexuality. Sexual interest and satisfaction is tied to emotional expressivity, women's self-worth, feelings of depression and loneliness as well as cognitive function. Research has shown that both general practitioners and specialists lack training in sexual assessments. Behavioral health specialists, such as a psychologist, can play an integral role in helping to facilitate communication between the patient and the provider. A main focus of communication training is to facilitate open and genuine conversation between the provider and the patient. Providers are encouraged to ask open ended questions while patients are encouraged to discuss symptoms while coping with an internal state of anxiety. Despite the known prevalence of sexual dysfunction among older women, few studied empirically based interventions have been published with these women. This speaks to the general assumption among medical professionals that having the "sex talk" in older women with gynecological pathology is not important or relevant. A biopsychosocial approach utilizing some of the aforementioned brief strategies can be easily implemented in comprehensive gynecology clinics in order to help women of all ages increase their sexual quality of life.

PMID:
21943557
PMCID:
PMC3598121
DOI:
10.1016/j.maturitas.2011.07.015
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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