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Straight Talk on Sexual Health and Menopause

Sexual Health and Menopausal Women

Engage with patients on intimate subjects related to women’s health, sexual health and menopause.

Women’s health nurse practitioner (NP) Barbara “Nurse Barb” Dehn, NP, FAANP, NCMP, knows sometimes it can be uncomfortable for patients to talk about their health with an NP or other health care provider, and to talk about sex in general. Combine the two into sexual health, and patients may be reluctant to relate their questions and concerns. To combat stigma, stereotypes and misinformation around these subjects, Dehn writes, speaks and creates videos to change the way we think — and speak — about sex, sexual health and menopause.

Menopause Facts and Myths

In an enlightening interview with Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP, on the latest episode of NP Pulse: The Voice of the Nurse Practitioner®, Dehn observes that “menopause is absolutely having a moment.” More individuals who are experiencing or have experienced menopause are speaking up about what this process means for their bodies and minds. Dehn notes, "so often we think of menopause as hot flashes and night sweats, but there’s a lot more to it.” She discusses the myriad physical symptoms that may accompany menopause and points out that even depression rates rise after menopause: “As estrogen levels drop, serotonin levels drop – and serotonin is that feel-good hormone in our brains.”

Dehn also addresses an overarching concern many patients experiencing menopause have with taking hormones, which she says is often linked to perceptions of steroid use and other unrelated applications. She urges patients to consider the natural basis of hormones in the human body and to speak with an NP to dispel myths about them. “So many people think that hormones are bad for you, or that they’re not natural, and a lot of people associate hormones with what bodybuilders use. But we have to remember that the hormones in our body — estrogen and progesterone — we’ve had in our body since we were 12 and since we started going through puberty. These hormones are normal, and natural, and when we go through menopause they start to decline. […] The best way to treat this for a person who can use it, who has no contraindications or cautions, is to replace those hormones.” Dehn also dispels the myth that using these hormones cause breast cancer, while also suggesting some nonhormonal remedies can help with menopause symptoms.

For additional information about menopause, Dehn recommends patients find a certified menopause provider, and visit the American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) website and for more information.

Speaking About Sex

Dehn also wants patients and providers to remember that menopause may mean a number of changes, and it may alter — but doesn’t have to end — a healthy sex life. Women experiencing menopause often experience symptoms like vaginal dryness, but Dehn councils many remedies exist for that issue — including some natural products you may already have at home. Dehn lists accompanying physical benefits to more sex, including better sleep, an endorphin rush and even improved blood flow throughout the body. Sexual health, Dehn points out, is vital for all individuals in sexual relationships to consider and discuss.

Leading the Discussion on Women’s Health

If women’s health is your vocation or passion as an NP, consider joining AANP’s Women’s Health Community. Members of this community have access to a cutting-edge, online forum where you may join with other likeminded NPs in sharing knowledge, documents and engaging in informative discussions related to this topic.

Join AANP Community

NPs interested in hearing directly from Dehn about her specialty may enroll in the continuing education (CE) activity “Exhausted at Menopause: Recognition and Treatment Options,” and earn 0.93 contact hours (CH) of CE credit, 0.47 of which may be applied toward pharmacology. Originally recorded for the 2023 AANP National Conference, this activity discusses how disrupted sleep impacts mood, the benefits of using estrogen to treat vasomotor symptoms and much more.