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Menopause dashes sex life

Women are likely to experience a dramatic loss of sexual function as a consequence of menopause, an Australian university study has concluded.

Women approaching menopause, however, can relax as the study, one of the first to accurately document what happens to a woman's sexual functioning during menopause, also identified factors that help protect against this sexual dysfunction.

The findings are part of the University of Melbourne's Women's Midlife Health Project being conducted by the University's Office for Gender and Health that has been following a large group of Melbourne women for over ten years.

"This is the first study worldwide to follow a population-based group of women for more than ten years and record symptoms of menopause as well as physical measurements that include blood samples to record hormone levels, bone density and skin fold thickness," says the project's Chief Investigator, Professor Lorraine Dennerstein.

"The study is also one of the few to have a validated sexuality questionnaire. This allows us to measure changes in women's sexual function and associate it with changes in hormone levels," she says.

The study found women going through the menopausal transition experienced a decline in sexual interest, a decrease in arousal and in the frequency of sexual activity, and an increase in vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse.

These dramatic changes were linked to a plunge in levels of the hormone estradiol. Other hormones, including the male-dominant hormones testosterone and androgen, were investigated but only estradiol, produced by the ovary, could be linked to this deterioration in sexual functioning specifically associated with the natural menopause. The findings are published in the April Supplement of Fertility Sterility.

In an invited lecture to the triennial International Menopause Society conference in Berlin on 14 June, Professor Dennerstein will announce from yet to be p
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Contact: Jason Major
jmajor@unimelb.edu.au
61-3-8344-0181
University of Melbourne
21-May-2002


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