Saturday, 7 April 2018

Menopause and sexual health

Roger Watson, Editor-in-Chief

Menopause is an inevitable feature of ageing in women who live long enough to experience it. Is is accompanied by age induced hormonal changes in the female reproductive tract which indicate the imminent end of fertility and is accompanied in many women with a period - sometime lasting years - of unpleasant side-effects. The most notable and visible of of these being 'hot flushes'. In any population of women the menopause has an impact on sexuality, this is known from research mainly involving western women. But what do we know about this in a relatively sexually conservative society such as the Cantonese Chinese population?

The study described here by Wong et al. (2108) was conducted in Hong Kong and and article titled: 'The Impact of Menopause on the Sexual Health of Chinese Cantonese Women: A Mixed Methods Study' was published recently in JAN. The study explored 'the impact of menopause on sexual health and marital relationships, the associated factors and the support needed among middle-aged and older women' and involved a sample of over 500 women who completed a questionnaire and 30 of whom were interviewed.

There was a high prevalence of sexual dysfunction and this was associated with depression. The effect on the women's sexual lives was negative and the most commonly reported effects of menopause were low sexual drive and vaginal dryness. As one woman said, more specific information about sex, in addition to the other aspects of menopause, needs to be provided: “I think it (information) should be more focused on sexual life. Because there is a lot of other information already. . . like there are videos about hot flashes, etc.. . . But not much about sex for both partners.”

In conclusion the authors say: 'This study gave a context for healthcare workers to better understand the challenges and needs of middle-aged and menopausal women and to ensure the provision of appropriate management of menopause in both clinical and community settings, targeting the family unit instead of women only. Better knowledge of the menopausal transition will enable healthcare service providers to implement appropriate programmes, education and services for different target populations.

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Wong, E. L., Huang, F. , Cheung, A. W. and Wong, C. K. (2018), The Impact of Menopause on the Sexual Health of Chinese Cantonese Women: A Mixed Methods Study. J Adv Nurs. doi:10.1111/jan.13568

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