April 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm , by Kayla Becker
When I heard that ob-gyn Lauren Streicher, M.D., a trusted member of our hard-working LHJ Medical Advisory Board, had written Love Sex Again, I wrote it off as a book for an older crowd—definitely not for a 20-something like me. But when I met with Dr. Streicher, a super energetic woman who has been the go-to person on sexual health for Dr. Oz and The Today Show, her enthusiasm won me over. I was surprised at how much I learned and how interested I was in what she had to say. Because let’s face it—she’s one of the few candid voices actually talking about this stuff.
In the book, which comes out this week, she covers topics such as how your hormones affect your sex life, what to do when sex is painful, how to re-spark your libido and how to improve your orgasms. She puts words to things you didn’t know you had and offers solutions to problems that are common. Her personable, humorous tone makes the book fun to read, and it’s useful, whether you’re in your 20s or your 70s. Here are three things from the book that grabbed me most.
WHAT 20-SOMETHING KAYLA LEARNED
1. Not many women are talking about their sexual problems.
Even though 100 million women in America have troubles in the bedroom (at all ages), very few talk about it—not even with their doctors. And even if they are seeing a physician, the doctor generally won’t bring it up. When surveyed, almost 42 percent of women said their doctor never asked about sex or libido. Dr. Streicher says it’s time to speak up!
2. Endometriosis can affect you (and your sex life) when you’re young.
The disease, which is often misdiagnosed, can be genetic and start at birth. In fact, 52 percent of teen girls with severe chronic pelvic pain had surgically proven endometriosis. It was news to me that this health problem didn’t just start later on in life. It reminds me of the popular article LHJ published recently about a woman who suffered from endometriosis for 20 years without being diagnosed!
3. The HPV vaccination is safe after age 26.
Because the HPV vaccination Gardasil is only FDA-approved for ages 9-26, I thought for years that it was unsafe after that time. In reality, age 26 is the cutoff not because it’s dangerous, but because the FDA has determined it doesn’t have a high enough cost benefit. Most women don’t ask for the vaccination because they think they’re too old for it, but Dr. Streicher says she gives the vaccine to anyone who asks. So if you’re, say, divorced and starting to date again, you should ask your doctor about it. The HPV virus can lead to several types of cancer, including oral. Just be prepared to pay, since your insurance probably won’t cover the cost.
I asked a friend in her 50s what she found most compelling from the book.
WHAT 50-SOMETHING JULIE LEARNED
1. Your sexual organs can atrophy?
Of course I’d heard that the drop in estrogen during perimenopause can cause your sexual desire to plummet, but I’d never heard about vulvovaginal atrophy. Lack of estrogen changes the pH so you have less lubrication and less protection from infections, as well as dryness, burning, itching and pain. No wonder so many women my age don’t feel like having sex! Yes, systemic hormone therapy can help. And we now know that new lower doses and different formulas are safer for many women (although there still are risks). But with local vaginal estrogen, via cream or a ring, only a tiny amount is absorbed into your system and can restore your lubrication and elasticity to more like your younger self within a few weeks. And yes, you do have to use it or lose it!
2. STDs… they’re not just for young people!
For some reason, we seem to think that 20-year-olds have more to worry about when it comes to sexually transmitted infections. There are more than 50 of them floating around out there; syphilis and chlamydia, for example, are skyrocketing in those over 55. And 80 percent of adults will have been exposed to HPV by the time they’re 60. “So many times my patients say, ‘I’m not worried… he’s a really nice guy,’ says Dr. Streicher. “I’ve got news for you. Sometimes the nice guys are the ones most likely to have an infection. Face it: Creepy guys usually have a harder time getting someone to sleep with them.”
3. Where is the women’s version of Viagra?
Women’s sexual function and desire are just more complicated than men’s. “Even if someone does discover the perfect pill to keep women lubricated, interested and highly orgasmic,” says Dr. Streicher, “the chance that the FDA will approve that pill before our daughters are grandmothers is extremely small.” So what till then? Dr. Streicher says some women with low libido benefit from small doses of testosterone, which can be prescribed off-label. A good lubricant can help a lot, too (or vaginal estrogen; see above). Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor.