Dr. Lauren Streicher says women of all ages are eager to talk about what she calls their “sexABILITY,” if only doctors would just ask.
In preparation for a segment on ABC’s “Nightline,” the Chicago gynecologist and a film crew randomly approached women on the streets of New York, targeting mostly women in their 40s and 50s, shattering the myth that women are hesitant to talk about their sexual health.
“Not one woman turned us down,” said Streicher. “Here’s the way I started: ‘The last time you went to your doctor, did he ask you about your sex life?’ One or two said, ‘yes,’ but all the others said, ‘No, I wish they had.’”
“It’s a huge issue,” she said. “The scientific literature doesn’t bring it up. Doctors are limited by time and they are not really comfortable. Women may be intimidated by a male doctor or think [their problem] is not important enough – and doctors are not bringing it up.”
Streicher has written a comprehensive guide to help women solve the medical problems that are “sabotaging” their sex lives in her new book, “Love Sex Again.”
As a clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, she has launched a campaign to publicly address sexual dysfunction in women for whom she says nearly half, intercourse is “uncomfortable, unpleasurable and even painful.”
"Sexability – I love that word – is not just about vaginal dryness, but the ability to have sex,” said Streicher, who writes the blog, “Midlife, Menopause and Beyond.”
“I was seeing so many women come in for general consultations and had thrown their sex lives out the window because they were told things like ‘use a lubricant’ and it didn’t help,” she said. “Doctors say vaginal dryness is a normal part of aging, but oh my god, it’s an easy fix and no one is given the information – it’s really pathetic. There are 55 million post-menopausal women and no one is helping them.”
But sexual dysfunction is not just the domain of older women, according to Streicher. Women of all ages face medical issues that can impact their sex lives.
The biggest sex destroyers are hormone issues caused by post-menstrual stress, infertility, pregnancy, birth, conceptions and menopause; stress; excess weight; lack of sleep; and medical challenges such as arthritis, cancer, depression, diabetes, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease; and other gynecological problems.
Not only does Streicher give women permission to talk about their sexual concerns, but she provides medically approved and widely available solutions, as well as a list of websites and organizations to help women get more information and sexual products.
“There is a real disconnect between information that is available and what is being told to women,” she said. “Women desperately need this information and their own doctors aren’t helping them.”
What should a healthy vagina look and smell like and how can a woman keep her pH levels normal? What’s the difference between vaginal lubricants? How can a pelvic physical therapist help a woman achieve orgasm? What prescription drugs affect libido? Are vibrators just for women with partners?
She deals with every imaginable topic with empathy and humor. “Is your heart going to be able to take fabulous sex and orgasms?” she asks, reminding readers the late New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller died having sex with his mistress.