Guest: Dr. Laura Berman
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Laura Berman, PhD, is a world renowned sex and relationship educator and therapist; popular TV, radio and Internet host; New York Times best-selling author; and assistant clinical professor of ob-gyn and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago. Considered a thought leader in her field, Dr. Berman has helped countless couples build stronger relationships, improve their sex lives, and achieve a heightened level of intimacy through her TV and radio shows, books, columns and website, along with her private practice based in Chicago. Dr. Berman is a New York Times best-selling author of many books on sexual health and pleasure, a weekly columnist for the Chicago Sun Times, and host of the radio program “Uncovered with Dr. Laura Berman.” She has appeared on Fox News, CNN and the TODAY Show, as well as in The New York Times, USA Today, and every major woman’s magazine. Dr. Berman serves on the advisory board for The Dr. Oz Show and is a regular guest on The Steve Harvey Show.
Segment Overview: Dr. Laura Berman discusses some of the sexual effects of menopause and how to identify and address them.
Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program. I’m your host Neal Howard here on Health Professional Radio. Thank you so much for joining us. Valentine’s Day is the celebration of romance but due to a painful symptom of menopause, women may avoid sexual intimacy altogether. Joining us is world-renowned sex and relationships educator and therapist Dr. Laura Berman. She’s joining us to discuss some of the sexual effects of menopause and how to identify and address them. Welcome to the program Dr. Berman. How are you?
Dr. Laura Berman: I’m great. Thanks for having me.
N: Thanks for taking the time. We’re talking about menopause. What are some of the main sexual concerns for menopause women?
B: The primary issues that they seem to deal with as we move into menopause especially are a lack of interest, a lack of desire as well as, pain during sex. In fact one in three women experience pain which of course then circles back to negatively affected desire.
N: You mentioned lack of desire, is it due to physical aspects or is there some psychological aspect that goes along with the menopause to contribute to this lack of desire, not necessarily the pain?
B: Yes, to those and also just a hormonal shift because the same thing that causes menopause, causes low desire and pain. Because what happens is that for a woman, there are two key hormones to her sexual interest and response – testosterone which is really what creates sexual desire physically and also sensation and estrogen which promotes blood flow lubrication arousal. Throughout a woman’s life as she ages, those are declining but with menopause, they’ve really bottomed out. When she doesn’t have enough testosterone, she’s just naturally physically not going to have a lot of desire or energy but that is on top of that, if she’s having pain then she’s really going to be less interested. And she’s also going to withdraw a little bit and also her relationship will be affected and that will probably also psychologically affect her desire. I think it’s all three.
N: When you’re addressing the situation, can the hormone therapy increase desire but the pain still persists? How do you deal with the pain normally or is there so many causes of pain that it depends on each woman?
B: There are great options out there. I think the most important thing for women to know especially if you’re postmenopausal or at any time, if you’re having painful sex, talk to your doctor and if you are postmenopausal or even if you’re not, don’t be embarrassed there’s nothing to be ashamed about. There are millions of other women just like you. In fact any woman going through menopause is going to have some sexual side-effects. So talk to your doctor, don’t be shy. If they blow you off, get another doctor because this is a really important part of health and wellness not to mention your quality of life and relationship. There are so many options out there. I’m actually partnering with Duchesnay USA who are the makers of Osphena which is the only FDA-approved, one time daily hormone free oral pill and it’s indicated for moderate to severe painful sex. I just want to mention, there’s a possible increased risk of endometrial cancer and cardiovascular disorders. So you just talk to your doctor about that too. That’s just one, I really like that one but there are many options out there that your doctor can talk to you about. They could help with the pain and other symptoms of menopause.
N: Talking to your doctor sometimes can be a little bit problematic at best. But what about talking to your partner? How do you get the conversation started with that potential partner or someone who you’ve been intimate with for years?
B: Absolutely. It’s so important to talk about your sex life at all stages of life and to get comfortable doing that, because your sexuality is always evolving and changing and you want to be able to really stay connected and be open. Certainly, there’s a lot of misconceptions about menopause. Your partner may be thinking you’re just not into him or her or maybe under the misconception that menopause is kind of the winding down and this is just a natural part of ageing. None of that is true. We can have vibrant enjoyable sex lives till the very end. Assuming that we can walk up two flights of stairs without chest pain, we can have sex. There’s no reason to not enjoy it. There is no reason to have pain. You do have to be your own best health advocate including your sexual health and recognize that this isn’t just for pleasure. It’s also for health because a healthy sex life boosts your immune system and it boosts your cardiovascular health. It boosts your general circulation. It helps with anxiety and depression. It helps with your relationship, which for women especially, when they’re in a good relationship, they live significantly longer than when they’re in a bad one. There are many health benefits including just life enjoyment to a healthy sex life.
N: Talking to your partner about what’s going on with you sexually, is it, in your experience, difficult task to get us guys to understand what’s going on with you women during menopause or throughout our relationships when it comes to menopause do we get a little bit more clueless?
B: Depends on the guy. Some guys are more clueless than others and some women are just as clueless as the guys because they’ve never been taught or didn’t know or just believed what they were told by the grandmothers or whatever else. The thing to remember is that menopause is not an end. It’s a beginning of a new phase of your life that can be amazing. You have to be able to communicate with your partner about your sex life and if your partner doesn’t understand the dynamics or the medical issues, show them. Go to osphena.com and you’ll learn about that medication but also menopause in general. I have tons of my sexpectation tips specifically for menopausal women, you can go to my website, Dr. Laura Berman where there’s tons of information at any stage of life on how to live your best love life or sex life. There’s so many resources available. So use those resources, educate yourself, educate your partner. Make sex a priority in your relationship and it will pay you back ten folds.
N: What are doctors saying to each other when it comes to sexual health and intimacy issues? There are a lot of subjects that just aren’t really touched upon in med school. What are your thoughts now as far as the information sharing as new information becomes available?
B: That’s really one of my passions, is training doctors to really feel comfortable, because doctors are people too and often they even get into medical school. They have to have no life, so they often have less experience than the rest of us, right? They have their own inhibitions and discomforts and they’re not trained to ask about it. If they don’t ask, that doesn’t mean you don’t bring up. In fact, I encourage women to proactively bring it up in the beginning of the appointment. So, they’re not waiting till the end and being rushed through and to even ask for a follow-up appointment if there’s not enough time to go over their options.
N: Do you recommend starting the conversation with your health care provider with your partner present or maybe going it alone and feeling the waters before you talk with your partner? In your experience.
B: I think you can go either way. It really depends on the partner, like if your partner is going to be intimidated by it or has never been to the ob/gyn with you or the doctor. Maybe you go first and find out what the options are and bring that information home to your mate or bring them with you. I mean that is certainly been shown and they have done the same studies with women but they have certainly shown with men, with their sexual function complaints when their partner comes with them to the doctor. Their prognosis for healing those sexual function complaints is significantly better than when they come alone.
N: You’re helping folks through your radio program, ‘Uncovered with Dr. Laura Berman’. You mentioned your website. Give our listeners that web address one more time where we can go and learn more.
B: Sure. It’s drlauraberman.com.
N: Appreciate your time today Dr. Laura Berman. I’m hoping you’ll come back in the future and talk with us again.
B: I would love to. Thanks for having me.
N: Thank you. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. Transcripts and audio of the program are available at hpr.fm and healthprofessionalradio.com.au.