Guest: Dr. Leah Millheiser
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Dr. Leah Millheiser is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University Medical Center. She is also a Fellow in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; as well as, the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health. In addition, Dr. Millheiser is the Chief Scientific Officer of Nuelle, a sexual wellness and intimate care company focused on delivering groundbreaking solutions made specifically for women.
Segment overview: Dr. Leah Millheiser, MD, OB/GYN, discusses stats from a new Harris Poll survey that sheds light on the prevalence of low libido in women and the impact it has on their lives.
Health Professional Radio – Low Libido in Women
Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard, thank you for joining us today. Our guest in studio is Dr. Leah Millheiser, Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University Medical Center. She’s returning with us to talk about a new Harris Poll survey that sheds a bit light on the prevalence of low libido in women and the impact that it has on their lives and also to tell us a bit about the Find My Spark Campaign. Welcome to Health Professional Radio Dr. Millheiser.
Dr. Leah Millheiser: Thank you for having me back.
N: Thank you. Have you always been interested in female health?
M: You know I have from a very young age, I was influenced by Dr. Ruth back in the 80’s and my interest just continued from there. So, yeah I made it my mission to address the sexual health concerns of women of all ages.
N: Are you more toward the sexual health as it relates to love making and desire and things to that nature or the reproductive sexual health or are the two combined as far as your concerned when it comes to FSD?
M: Yes, that’s an interesting question. I think, my focus, my research focus, my clinical focus really is on women’s sexual function. So addressing sexual concerns, addressing true female sexual dysfunction. But having said that, when you look at, for example reproductive health, every stage of a woman’s reproductive life impacts her sexual functioning. Take a look at women who are breastfeeding, who are basically placed in a menopausal stage. They experience sexual pain and vaginal dryness and low libido. How about birth control pills? Of course causing for many women, again vaginal dryness and low libido, going through menopause, same thing. So every aspect, every part of a woman life, it seems like there’s an assault on their sexual function and that’s really what I’ve made it my career to address, “How are we providing support for these women so they continue to have the sexual relationship that they want and the intimacy in this relationship that they want with their partner?”
N: Now Leah, there’s was a recent survey conducted, a national survey as a matter of fact, talk about the survey and what did the survey aim to find in the first place?
M: Yeah. So this is a really interesting survey. This was a survey that was conducted by the American Sexual Health Association and supported by Valeant and essentially this was a Harris Poll Survey and what we wanted to do is we wanted to look out women who were premenopausal. So much of our data on low sex drive is in post-menopausal women. We really wanted to get an understanding, especially in the millennial population, ‘How is their sex drive?’, How is their libido?’ And so what we did is we looked up to 2,500 women, we didn’t know if they had sexual dysfunction or not and we were essentially asking them questions about desire and what that desire, how that desire impacted their life and relationship. And the age of the women in the study was 21-49, so we really did have a good snapshot of women who were sort of as I said millennials and then really women who are pre-menopausal but going towards menopause, none of the women in the study were menopausal. So these are women who really are pre-menopausal women. So we found some really interesting thing, what I found was really interesting is when they stratify the groups, that they broke the groups down into women age 21-34 and then 35-49, that the impact of low desire was not different among the two groups. I would have imagined that the women who were older would have been more impacted, it would had a greater impact on their life, but that wasn’t the case – it was pretty equal between both groups. So what I’ve really thought was interesting is that, half of the women in the study felt like their sex drive was lower now by the time they took the survey and then have them in the past and 93% of these women felted that low desire put a strain on their relationship. The majority felted that strain might have a very negative impact and put their relationship at risk and for the health care providers, I think that this is an interesting information – 67% of the women worried that their desire wouldn’t be taken seriously and only 14% were aware of the availability of treatment. So what that tells me as a healthcare professional? It tells me that we’re not doing enough still as health care providers to empower patients to talk about their sexual function concern. So I think some really interesting things the are very impactful came out of this Find My Spark Survey.
N: Did you find that once you divided the women into that age group, the 19-34 and then 35-49 I think you said?
N: Okay. Once you divided them, did you find that lifestyle changes based on growing older had anything to do with the equal amount of sexual desire or sexual dysfunction? I mean certain things happened just because you hit an age milestone, not necessarily age but your lifestyle, your living conditions, your station in life. Did you find that some of those things affected FSD as well?
M: So we didn’t look specifically at what is the process of aging. So I understand your question and I agree that one would imagine as a woman becomes more financially confident in her life or she’s now has a long term partner, understand more about her body, maybe she, I would almost think that she’d might have some more confidence. But it’s interesting, they didn’t look specifically at life changes. What they saw there, when they answered, when they broke the women down into these two groups, is that nothing seem to make a difference. We looked at this, they were equal in all of their responses. So these changes that occur when a woman goes from age 21 to age 49 that happened in her, so there’s her social life, her personal life, didn’t affect the changes that low libido had on these women’s relationship and self-esteem, and concern about their health.
N: And I understand also that there’s a new campaign launched to shed some understanding, could you talk about this Find My Spark Campaign?
M: Yes. So the Find My Spark Educational Program was created by the American Sexual Health Association and supported by Valeant. And essentially, it’s a program where they brought together experts, the leading experts in the field of Female Sexual Medicine to design a website with accurate data, that’s evidence based where women could go to find out on their own and in a safe environment what is female sexual dysfunction? How do I know I may have it? And if I think I have it, what do I do about it? Who do I talk to? How do I talk to my partner about it? There’s some really great resources that women can go to and get educated, become more confident in their ability to talk to their health care provider and I think that’s really what women have been asking for. Women have been suffering … This is a really common concern, if you look at the numbers, 44% of all women in United States, experience a sexual concern of which a large number of those women have true sexual dysfunction. But they’re not talking about it because they just feeling embarrassed, they feel isolated, they shouldn’t feel that way – it’s a common issue. There is help available, there are solutions and treatments that your healthcare provider can discuss with you including those psychological approaches, medical approaches, there are solutions. So I think number one is get educated on a website like findmyspark.com and then go and speak with their health care provider.
N: Starting of the conversation, you mentioned embarrassment and things of that nature. When it comes to start of the conversation, should the patient say, ‘Hey this is what’s going on’ or if the health care provider suspects based on an interview or just a conversation to get this kind of a delicate conversation started. In your opinion, who do you think needs to go ahead and get it jumped off?
M: I’m going to say yes and yes. Yes to the woman bringing it up and yes to the clinician or the health care provider identifying some but if information that the woman is saying and saying, ‘You know what, let’s get into that further.’ But I want to just make this very clear for any woman who might be listening. Just because your clinician or your health care provider doesn’t ask you about sexual dysfunction or sexual concern, it’s not that they don’t care, it’s not that they don’t want to talk about it, it’s often times in the way health care is done today – there’s not always time to get to every issue. So the clinicians are really trying to focus on, ‘Okay what do I need to know?’ But it is very important for a woman to say, ‘You know, one more thing, I have this concern.’ And if the doctor does not have time to talk about it during that visit and make sure you make secondary visit for the patient to come back. It’s equally important or give her referral to someone in the community who does deal with female sexual concerns. So if your clinician or health care provider doesn’t bring it up, please, every woman bring it up yourself, your clinician to hear about it.
N: Great. You’ve been listening in the Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. I’ve been talking with Dr. Leah Millheiser, Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University Medical Center. As a Sexual Medicine Expert she devotes her career to treating all aspects of female sexual health and she’s been with us talking about the Find My Spark Campaign as well as a recent Harris Poll that shed a bit of light and understanding on FSD. It’s been great having you here with us today Doctor.
M: Thank you so much for having me.
N: Thank you. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also hpr.fm and you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.