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No More Mercy Sex: How to Optimize Your Female Sexual Health

From the Show: HER
Summary: Not in the mood? Having mercy sex to keep your partner happy when you just don't feel like it? You may need to see a doctor.
Air Date: 1/19/17
Duration: 32:49
Host: Michelle King Robson and Pam Peeke, MD
Guest Bio: Leah Millheiser, MD
Dr. Leah MillheiserDr. Leah S. Millheiser is the Chief Scientific Officer of Nuelle, Inc. She is also a Clinical Assistant Professor and the Director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stanford University Medical Center.

Dr. Millheiser is an OB/GYN who has devoted her career to researching and treating all aspects of female sexual health. She has a particular interest in the sexual wellness of cancer survivors. In her gynecology practice, she takes care of women across the lifespan, from adolescence to menopause and beyond.  

Dr. Millheiser has served as the principal investigator for many clinical trials in the area of women’s sexual health and has authored numerous publications on female sexual dysfunction for peer-reviewed journals and textbooks. At Stanford, she has been a mentor for medical students, residents, and PhD students interested in women’s sexual health.

She has served as the Education Chair for the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH) and was a past member of the ISSWSH Board of Directors. She is also a member of the International Consultation on Sexual Medicine. Dr. Millheiser is frequently invited to lecture, both nationally and internationally, and serves as a women’s health expert for television, online, and print media.

Dr. Millheiser holds a B.A. from Columbia University and an M.D. from Northwestern University. After completing her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stanford University, she became the recipient of the prestigious Women’s Reproductive Health Research Scholarship (K12 award) from the NIH. This provided her with the opportunity to do novel research on the specific patterns of brain activation and sexual response among women with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD). Her groundbreaking findings were published in the journal, Neuroscience.
No More Mercy Sex: How to Optimize Your Female Sexual Health
Not in the mood? Given the following statistics, it wouldn't be terribly surprising...

  • 48 percent of women ages 23 to 49 say their sex drive is lower now than it has been in the past.
  • 93 percent of women believe that having a low sexual desire can put a strain on their relationships.
  • 46 percent of women currently in relationships feel that low sexual desire is putting their relationships at risk.
  • 81 percent of women in relationships admit to having sex with a partner when they are not in the mood, commonly referred to as "mercy sex."
All of these percentages add up to these two very important points: women have concerns about low sexual desire and low sex drive is not uncommon in women.

Understanding Female Sexual Dysfunction
Female sexual dysfunction is a disorder in which a woman has a sexual concern for at least six months. Concerns include decreased sexual desire, less frequent or weaker orgasms, difficulty with arousal, and pain during intercourse.

Does the complaint bother you? Is it a consistent problem that’s causing you distress? Has it been happening for at least six months? Could it be the result of medication you’re taking? Are you having other relationship issues?

These are all factors that should lead you to talk to your doctor.

Some physicians may chalk these concerns up to stress or depression. Going on more dates or having a glass of wine won’t help address female sexual dysfunction. Meditation and taking a vacation don’t address the root of the problem.

Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is a problem with an imbalance of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. HSDD encompasses low libido. The brain responds differently to sexually arousing images in women with HSDD than it does in sexually healthy women. There is a biological basis for low sex drive.

Women are more impacted by stressors and the environment than men. Arousal is difficult when a woman is fatigued, stressed, having trouble at work, or having relationship issues.

Sexual relationships are tied to intimacy. Talk to your doctor about the changes you’re experiencing and sexual issues you may be having.

Perimenopause & Menopause Concerns
As you enter perimenopause and menopause, it’s important to understand what’s happening in your body. Your estrogen and testosterone levels have been declining for years. Your libido will change and you’ll experience vaginal dryness. Try using a silicone-based personal lubricant if you have issues related to vaginal dryness. You can also try olive oil or coconut oil, so long as you aren’t using latex products. If those don’t help, you need to speak with your clinician about other options.

You can visit FindMySpark.com to learn more about female sexual dysfunction. Study up on what you’re experiencing, and use that to start a conversation with your doctor.

Listen in as Dr. Leah Millheiser shares how female sexual dysfunction can be addressed and how you can achieve "no more mercy sex."

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