Photo: Dr. Becky Lynn
"Impaired sexual health can affect quality of life." That is the important message Dr. Becky K. Lynn, SLUCare OB/GYN seeks to convey. An assistant professor at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Lynn specializes in sexual health for women. "As a subspecialty, it is a fairly recent development, but it is getting more attention," she says.
That's probably because it is not only a medical issue, but a factor in emotional and psychological well-being, too. Intimacy is part of a healthy relationship, Lynn points out, noting that a woman's primary sex organ is her brain.
"We focus on sexual health as part of building a healthy relationship," she says. Yet many women deal with issues around sex at some time in their lives. "Several studies have found that about 40 percent of women have problems with low libido, arousal, orgasm or pain," she reports. It's important to seek help when that is the case, she says.
One of Lynn's patients who did seek help, Belinda, says it has changed her life. "I went through a year of beating cancer, and then experienced painful sex on top of it. I was really upset," she says. During treatment by Lynn, Belinda gained a variety of tools to address the problem. "Dr. Lynn helped by recommending natural products to alleviate dryness, and she said I should exercise to increase endorphins. Going to her about this has made such a difference in my life."
Lynn points out that a number of factors can impair female sexual health. Among them are diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and cancer. Some medications, too, suppress libido, including common antidepressants. "It can be very distressing to lose sex drive," she says, "and it can cause rifts in a relationship." When Belinda, 48, endured a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, she also had to cope with the side effects of Tamoxifen. The drug is prescribed to treat and prevent some types of breast cancer, but it also blocks estrogen and can lead to another cause of sexual dysfunction in women: vaginal dryness.
"Women may think it is all a normal part of aging, but there are things you can do to improve your sex life, some are hormonal, others are not," says Lynn. "A lot of these issues are interrelated." She points to newer medications, specifically ‘the little pink pill,' designed to help with female sex drive.
The message to take away from all this, Lynn says, is that female sexuality is a complicated process of the physical, the emotional and the psychological. "There are many things we can do to bring intimacy back to your relationship. The important thing to remember is that a woman's sexual and intimate life doesn't have to end with age or illness."
To request an appointment with Dr. Lynn, call the SLUCare Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's health at (314) 977-7455.
By Rick Stoff