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What men in 9 countries think about their menopausal partners. A study on 4,000 couples

84% of men are interested in sharing their partners' problems; however, 50% of women prefer keeping them for themselves. These are the results of the study presented during the seminar "Uomini a lezione di menopausa" (Menopause lessons for men) sponsored by DEKA.

Sex life after forty is an issue for over 4 women out of 10. This is the result of a European study on 4000 couples, about to be published. According to this study, 50% of women either cannot bring themselves to talk about it or find it hard and embarrassing to do; on the other hand, 84% of men want to be informed about the discomfort experienced by their partner during menopause.
One major problem during menopause is vaginal atrophy.

This condition leads to reduced lubrication of vaginal mucosa, gradual loss of elastic fibre and collagen, and reduced defence against infection. These symptoms strongly affect a women's sex life. Vaginal atrophy can cause pain during intercourse or lead to sexual disorders (low sex drive, lack of orgasm, arousal, and fulfilment), with significant consequences on a relationship. Vaginal atrophy can impact a woman's partner, causing erection and ejaculation problems and reduced sex drive, but it can also lead a man to feel rejected, without understanding why.

Therefore, it is important to share the problems related to women's health and prevention during menopause, because their partners want to be involved and understand these problems.

This is what resulted from an international survey (about to be published) that involved approximately 4000 menopausal women aged between 55 and 65, who presented symptoms related to vaginal atrophy (dryness, irritation, burning pain, itching, inflammation, etc.) and their partners in 9 countries, including Italy.
With reference to Italy, the main results of this study can be summarised as follows:

  • 84% of partners want to know more about vaginal atrophy symptoms (much more than English men, 67%, but a bit less than the French, 89%). 27% of men feel uncomfortable talking about these subjects, although 39% get cross if their partner does not want to talk about it (a percentage that is almost double compared to men of all the other countries). 15% confess they would feel less attracted to their partners (more than the men from the other countries) talking about vaginal atrophy.
  • Approximately 20% of women do not talk about vaginal symptoms with their partner, because they either think they are part of the natural aging process, feel embarrassed, or thing that it is "women's stuff" that men cannot understand anyway. Almost 30% of women feel embarrassed, although they do talk about it, and 15% think they become less attractive, which leads 40% of them to try "DIY" treatments (eg, lubricants) before dealing with the subject. 5% of women fear that their partner could cheat on them; quite a small percentage, but higher than that of the other countries.
  • 52% of women with post-menopausal vaginal symptoms report to have reduced their sexual activity, 42% feel unfulfilled, 23% feel emotionally distant, and 21% have stopped having sexual intercourse altogether.
  • While 16% of women believe that their partner is no longer attracted to them, only 9% of men actually think so and 11% of them feel emotionally distant.
  • Only 13% of men think that their sexual problems have been made worse because of their partner, the lowest percentage compared to all the other countries (American men blame their partner in 31% of cases!)
  • Approximately 3 couples out of 4 confess to have avoided intercourse because of vaginal atrophy symptoms and believe that their sex life has benefitted from specific treatments, such as hormonal therapy.
  • 48% of women, in particular, feel they have lost their youth because of vaginal atrophy and almost 70% feel rejuvenated once they find a solution to this problem.

The gynaecologist is certainly the person menopausal women can turn to, with no embarrassment, to ask for help with sex-related issues. Just a few questions regarding general health, sexual activity and a couple's relationship can help clearing out any doubts, educating menopausal women to the different age-related sexual response between men and women, and finding the best solution together with the gynaecologist.
Sometimes, simple, comforting recommendations are enough; other times, a longer diagnostic and therapeutic procedure is required to understand the causes and identify the best cure for sex-related symptoms. Keeping an optimal hormonal balance and protecting genital health against the negative effects of age, whilst improving menopausal women's awareness on how sexual activity can change according to the general health state, are indeed the best strategy a gynaecologist can come up with to prevent those sex-related symptoms, which, if left untreated during menopausal age, can interfere in women's relationships with their partners during senescence.