Center for Intimate Health and Wellness Helps Patient Regain Quality of Life
AUGUST 09, 2021
After struggling with menopause and sexual function concerns, Maria regained her sexual health and desire thanks to the help of BIDMC’s Center for Intimate Health and Wellness.
At age 39, Maria* felt a sudden change in her wellbeing. “I was experiencing a loss of sexual desire, as well as hot flashes and mood swings,” she says. “I didn’t feel like myself. I wasn’t sure if it was early menopause or something different, but I knew I needed help.”
After consulting with an endocrinologist, Maria was diagnosed with early menopause and began hormone therapy. “This felt like a life vest – at least I wasn’t drowning anymore,” she says.
She then established gynecologic care at BIDMC. “My gynecologist was the first physician I saw who validated my concerns and helped me feel like I wasn’t imagining this,” she says. “We adjusted my medication plan and she recommended that I make an appointment with Dr. Anand at the Center for Intimate Health and Wellness.”
In Maria’s situation, she had gone into early menopause and her symptoms were very bothersome to her both physically and emotionally. “I had zero libido. My husband was supportive, but I just couldn’t open up to him,” she says. “I just started reading as much as I could because I knew there had to be a way to get the old ‘me’ back.”
At her first visit with Dr. Anand, Maria says she felt immediately welcomed and relaxed. “I was nervous, but Dr. Anand just has this way of putting you at ease,” Maria says. “She validates your concerns and really listens. I felt safe to disclose some of my most personal concerns because I knew she wasn’t going to judge me.”
Urogynecologist Mallika Anand, MD, Director of BIDMC’s Center for Intimate Health and Wellness, explains, “Sexual function concerns are incredibly common. They occur in 40% of women, and can include loss of desire, decreased arousal and orgasm, decreased lubrication, pain with sexual activity, decreased satisfaction, or a combination of these. Changes can occur throughout life and affect each person differently. If such symptoms are negatively affecting quality of life, it’s important to reach out for help.”
Experts at the Center for Intimate Health and Wellness use a biopsychosocial approach to diagnose and treat sexual function concerns. “Often times, there are multiple reasons for any given symptom,” explains Dr. Anand. “Loss of desire can occur because of physical pain, psychological stress, medications, hormonal changes to the body following childbirth or menopause, procedures, or relationship difficulties.”
Each patient’s treatment plan at the Center for Intimate Health and Wellness is unique and depends upon the patient’s goals – there is no one-size-fits-all.
“Patients may come to us with symptoms of discomfort after childbirth, vaginal dryness during menopause, or sexual function changes after other medical treatment such as chemotherapy. These are just a few examples of the many conditions we treat,” Dr. Anand says.
Treatment is often multi-modal and can include non-medication as well as medication and hormone therapies, referrals for pelvic floor physical therapy, or recommendations for sex education. For some patients, anesthesia or surgical procedures may also be an option.
Since gaining the confidence to initiate new conversations with her husband and beginning a new medication, Maria says she’s regaining a sense of normalcy. “I wanted to live my life and feel fulfilled in all aspects – and this includes intimacy. My treatment plan is a journey, but I feel like I have a team of experts here to support me as we figure this out together.”
She continues, “I’m 45-years-old now and I have my whole life ahead of me. I’m so grateful to Dr. Anand and her team for making me feel valued and whole again.”
*Patient’s name has been changed to protect privacy.
About Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School and consistently ranks as a national leader among independent hospitals in National Institutes of Health funding. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, a health care system that brings together academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, community and specialty hospitals, more than 4,800 physicians and 36,000 employees in a shared mission to expand access to great care and advance the science and practice of medicine through groundbreaking research and education.