Menopause and sexuality: prevalence of symptoms and impact on quality of life

Rossella E Nappi, Michèle Lachowsky
Maturitas 2009 June 20, 63 (2): 138-41

OBJECTIVE: This article aims to summarise the available knowledge on the prevalence of sexual symptoms at the menopause and their impact on quality of life in elderly women. Sexual changes are analysed in the context of the menopause transition and beyond.

METHODS: The medical literature was searched (1990-2008) with regard to menopause and sexuality using several related terms.

RESULTS: The prevalence of sexual symptoms at the menopause differs across studies depending on several factors such as sample size, design, hormonal status and country. The most common sexual complaints are reduced sexual desire, vaginal dryness and dyspareunia, poor arousal and orgasm and impaired sexual satisfaction. Age and declining oestradiol levels have significant detrimental effects on sexual functioning, desire and responsiveness (arousal, sexual pleasure and orgasm) across the normal menopause transition, while reduced androgens levels played a role in hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), a symptom frequently diagnosed in surgically menopausal women.

CONCLUSIONS: Women attending menopause clinics are vulnerable to female sexual dysfunction (FSD) because of a complex interplay of individual factors variably affecting well-being. Surgically menopausal women may be more distressed by sexual symptoms. Giving women the opportunity to talk about sexual problems is a fundamental part of health care and may improve their quality of life.

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