EVERYDAY HEALTH – New research presented at the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Annual Meeting in Atlanta, held October 12–15, explored several issues related to the sex lives of midlife women.
“Women’s sexual health, particularly in midlife, has been under-addressed,” says Stephanie S. Faubion, MD, the medical director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) and the director of the Office of Women’s Health at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.
Identifying, understanding, and treating women’s sexual dysfunction is an important component of overall health and well-being, she says.
Childhood Trauma and Midlife Sexual Dysfunction: What’s the Link?
Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood, and can include violence, abuse, and growing up in a family with mental health or substance abuse problems.
One in three children experiences at least one ACE, and 39 percent of U.S. women report experiencing two or more ACEs in their lifetime.
Not only are ACEs linked with chronic health problems and mental illness in adulthood, they are also associated with menopause symptom severity and even what age a woman experiences natural menopause.
A new cross-sectional analysis using the Data Registry on the Experiences of Aging, Menopause, and Sexuality (DREAMS) study found that the more adverse childhood experiences a woman had, the worse sexual function they had in midlife.
“We also looked to see if ACEs would predict who wasn’t sexually active in midlife, and it did; the more ACEs a woman had in childhood, the less likely she was to be sexually active at all in midlife,” says Faubion, who coauthored the study.
A total of 1,257 women were included in the analysis, with 53.4 percent of the women experiencing female sexual dysfunction (FSD), defined as the presence of distressing sexual problems. The women were an average age of 53 years old, 96 percent were white, 89 percent were partnered, and 93 percent had at least some college.
History of ACEs was obtained with the validated ACE questionnaire, and FSD was assessed by the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) and the Female Sexual Distress Scale — Revised (FSDS-R) …