It can be difficult to talk about sexual health issues with your healthcare provider. Ann Marie J. and Dr. Kaplan are here to tell you why it’s important to do so.
DISCUSSING SEX WITH YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
Dr. Wanda Castro: Hi everybody, welcome to She Talks MS. My name is Wanda Castro and I’ll be your host. I work with Biogen, and today we’re going to be talking about sexual health. Ann Marie can you share with us what your experience has been talking to your healthcare provider about this topic?
Ann Marie J.: Sure. We’ve been together since the very beginning. So, you know, for me, at the time when I was first diagnosed with MS, I was just trying to figure out how I was going to be able to do the day-to-day. But as the time went on and I noticed different things that define me as a woman was being challenged, that’s when it became obvious that, you know what? I need to talk to someone about this.
Wanda: Who typically approaches this conversation about sexual health? Is it you or your healthcare provider?
Ann Marie J.: Well, it’s interesting because she just, she had a set of, what, twins at the time, so I used to always talk about her kids. And, you know, of course, she knows my age. She’s your doctor, right?
Dr. Kaplan: Hope so.
Ann Marie J.: So, she would you know, ask, well, do you have any kids? And I was like no. Are you thinking about having kids? So, we would have conversations around that. And it wasn’t until I started bringing up my concerns and my challenges that conversation got even broader.
Dr. Kaplan: I applaud you so much for bringing this up, because so many people don’t. So many women are struggling in silence because they don’t feel comfortable bringing this up, or they’re embarrassed. Or they’re not sure that this is even related to MS and they think this is a personal thing and there’s probably nothing my healthcare provider can do to help me, so, why bring it up? And that’s a sad mistake, you know, because I hope that healthcare providers can help.
Wanda: How do you think the conversations about female sexual health are different than men’s sexual health?
Dr. Kaplan: I have a lot to say about this too.
Ann Marie J.: Oh yeah! You start.
Dr. Kaplan: The first thing I’ll say is, some people aren’t even aware that women could even have sexual dysfunction. The truth is that the female sexual problems are so much more complex. There’s so many different levels. It’s about the mind, body and spirit and all those things have to be working together to feel satisfied with your sexual function.
Ann Marie J.: Absolutely. With the women, it’s more mental, but just trying to get over the mental hump is really hard. And there’s not really much for us from a medication perspective, which is different from what men, often, will share in the groups that I have been in. It’s different for them.
Dr. Kaplan: The other thing about women too that’s somewhat unique is it changes over the course of a woman’s lifespan. So, sexual problems pre-menopause might be different from sexual problems during menopause and post-menopause. And, you know, issues like lubrication and things like that, change over the course of a woman’s lifetime.
Wanda: Did your patients bring their partners to their office when you’re talking about this topic?
Dr. Kaplan: So, I’ve seen both sides of the spectrum. Sometimes, women want their partner there so that, you know, they can hear, and their partner can hear, it’s not you that’s the problem. And so, having that conversation as a group can sometimes be very helpful. But other times, I’ve had women that don’t want their partner there because they’re embarrassed, or they haven’t talked about it with their partner yet, and they want to just sort of talk to their doctor first. I think it’s sometimes more, wanting some reassurance that this can be a normal part of MS and there are things we can do about it, and here’s how you can express that to your partner.
Ann Marie J.: The reassurance is very important because you’re going through so many emotional feelings and doubts and questions that you need that reassurance, and I think that you get that from your doctor. It helps empower you. So, when you do have that conversation with your partner, how they respond also empowers you.
Dr. Kaplan: Women should be reassured to know that this is incredibly common, and they are not alone when they feel these symptoms and these feelings. They should bring them up with their healthcare provider because there’s possibly something their healthcare provider can do to help them.
Wanda: Well, Ann Marie, thank you so much for sharing your story with us today. We know that it’s difficult to open up about these topics. We hope that this inspires someone that is watching us to have these conversations and open up with their healthcare providers.
Ann Marie J.: Thank you.
Everyone’s experience with multiple sclerosis (MS) is different. Your healthcare provider should always be your primary source of information. The people in this video are paid spokespeople for Biogen.