Most (64 percent of Americans, according to one recent study) are satisfied with their sex lives.
But many health issues can get in the way of having a good sex life, from prescription medication side effects to depression to sexually transmitted diseases.
In many cases, physicians can work with their patients to improve the situation, whether by changing the dosage of a medication, helping to treat depression or other medical conditions, or by providing sound medical advice for people who have STDs.
?For people who are not satisfied with their sex life, they really should talk to their primary care physician,? says Pamela G. Rockwell, D.O., assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. ?He or she may be able to diagnose something that was previously undiagnosed, change medications, or offer some lifestyle recommendations. In many cases, the patients can improve their sexual satisfaction.?
Here, Rockwell explains how nine health issues can affect sexual satisfaction.
1. Prescription medications. Many common drugs can have side effects that impact sexual health, including medications that treat blood pressure, heart conditions and depression.
2. Cardiac health. First, Rockwell would like to dispense with a common misconception. ?I think the most common fallacy is that having sex is going to cause a heart attack,? she says. ?The good news is it really isn?t the case.?
3. Depression. Untreated depression, Rockwell says, can lead to many sexual difficulties. ?People can experience lack of pleasure, lack of desire and lack of ability to perform,? she says.
4. Alcohol. As anyone who has ever seen a beer commercial knows, alcohol and sex are linked in the minds of many people. Indeed, Rockwell says, many people believe that alcohol will ?get you in the mood.?
5. Sexually transmitted diseases. For people with STDs such as HIV, the human papillomavirus (HPV), or hepatitis, sex isn?t out of the picture. In fact, Rockwell says, ?people with STDs can certainly have healthy, satisfying sex lives.?
6. Stress. Got stress? If so, then you may have more trouble experiencing an enjoyable sex life.
7. Pregnancy. ?Physically, there is no barrier to sex during pregnancy,? Rockwell says. Intercourse will not harm the fetus or the woman, unless she has a medical problem and has been advised by her physician not to have intercourse. Levels of desire can vary. The use of lubricants and changes in positions as the pregnancy progresses may be necessary.
8. Menopause. Some physical limitations may affect a woman?s enjoyment of sex after menopause, but that doesn?t mean a woman?s sex life is over. ?Many women can experience a very healthy sexual life after menopause,? Rockwell says. ?There is no reason that menopause should mean an end to your sex life.? Topical estrogen cream and lubricants may help after the drop in hormone levels that occurs during menopause.
9. Poor body image and self esteem. A woman?s self esteem can significantly affect her sexual satisfaction, and low self esteem based on a poor image of her body can detrimentally impact her enjoyment of sex. ?Some studies show that as little as five pounds of weight loss can greatly improve a woman?s sexual satisfaction,? Rockwell notes.