A: I wish I could say yes, but there are no specific drugs for this purpose.
Testosterone is thought of as a male hormone, but it is also made by women. And it may have an important role to play in female sexuality. Some studies have shown an improvement in interest in sex in women given testosterone. Other studies have not shown this effect, so the use of testosterone for women remains controversial.
Despite these results, sexual satisfaction does not have to end with menopause. Sexuality is a complex behavior. The ability to have an orgasm is only one goal among many.
We used to think of sexual response in a step-by-step fashion: Sexual desire leads to genital stimulation. This is followed by arousal, and completed by orgasm.
Today we know that orgasm is part of a more circular interaction. It includes emotional intimacy and relationship issues such as commitment, sharing, and attachment.
Better understanding of the complex interplay among a woman's physiology, psychology, and relationship has led to more effective approaches to help achieve sexual satisfaction, such as getting fit, making time for intimacy and sex, and addressing any physical discomfort.
Exercising more to improve physical fitness can boost sexual function. Also, taking time for a satisfying sex life helps to keep it from becoming one more source of stress in a busy life.
One of the most important barriers to sex in menopause is the physical changes to the vagina caused by dropping estrogen levels. The vaginal tissues depend on estrogen to stay moist, flexible, and responsive to sexual arousal. When estrogen levels drop, intercourse may be painful.
Various lubricants (K-Y, Astroglide) may help relieve dryness. These symptoms can be reversed with estrogen. When used in low doses and placed directly in the vagina, estrogen is typically quite safe.
Many drugs, such as antidepressants, can impair sexual interest and performance. If sexual function is impaired because of a drug side effect, another drug may be available as a substitute.
(Joan Bengtson, M.D., is an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Dr. Bengtson is a Senior Medical Editor at Harvard Health Publications.)