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Beth Israel Deaconess Offers Holistic Options for Women Experiencing Sexual Dysfuntion

Many women – an estimated 43 percent – experience some degree of difficulty with sex at some point in their lives, impairing their quality of life. Often, the problem is related to an underlying (and treatable) medical condition. There’s good news – and an innovative treatment center – for women who experience issues with intimate wellness including sexual dysfunction. When the new Beth Israel Deaconess Center for Intimate Health and Wellness opens in Waltham in early July, its team of professionals will provide a multidisciplinary, holistic approach to treating women with these conditions.

“When we looked around the Boston area, we didn’t find a place where people can get this kind of patient-centered care,” says Roger Lefevre, MD, the Center’s director. The Center will address a variety of pelvic conditions that can interfere with a woman’s ability to have a healthy intimate life. These include dyspareunia (pain with intercourse), genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM), incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, vaginal laxity and atrophy, myofascial disorder, vaginismus (involuntary contraction of the vaginal muscle) and more.

By taking a holistic approach in dealing with these conditions that can disrupt a woman’s quality of life, treatment goes beyond using traditional Western medicine. The focus will be on promoting wellness and compassionate care. “We will be able to pool our resources together, from sex therapists, nutritionists, acupuncturists, and clinicians,” Dr. Lefevre says, “and a lot of people who treat sexual health disorders to provide access to care that’s easy for women.”

Depending on the condition, a woman’s treatment could involve seeing several professionals. For someone with vaginismus, for example, Dr. Lefevre says, “It doesn’t need to be one solution. You can have Botox, but you can also work with a pelvic physical therapist. We can have the compounding pharmacy mail you some vaginal suppositories, and then you can see your sexual psychologist. That’s what we mean by patient-centered care and holistic approach to their problem.”

For example, if a patient comes in with vaginal pain that makes her avoid sex, nurse practitioner Meena Murthy – the first point of contact – would dedicate a significant amount of time talking with her and do a complete history. If Murthy discovers that the patient is a breast cancer survivor or is going through menopause and gaining weight – which can impact intimacy – a comprehensive care plan would be created for her. Instead of treating just one symptom, she would be directed to a nutritionist, pelvic physical therapist and acupuncturist. In addition, she would be offered non-hormonal treatments for vaginal atrophy and dryness, which might be contributing to her pain. Murthy would coordinate all aspects of treatment to make sure the patient gets everything she needs.

“In a traditional setting, that patient would get a handout [with some resources] and some medication,” Dr. Lefevre says. “I think that’s how we’re going to differ from the traditional OBGYN offices or other centers in town.”

Beth Israel Deaconess’s Center for Intimate Health and Wellness is affiliated with the Cheng-Tsui Center for Integrated Wellness at BIDMC and with the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Waltham. Patients will be seen in Waltham at the Domar Center in a private and very calming environment. Even though the approach is holistic, most treatments are covered by insurance.

“We’ve invested a lot of time in selecting the multidisciplinary services that we’re going to involve in the Center because we really want to promote wellness,” Dr. Lefevre says. “I think this is going to be very positive and help show people what the mentality is at Beth Israel Deaconess and what we try to do, and I have a feeling that this is going to be a success.”

If you are a woman experiencing an issue with intimate health or wellness including sexual or pelvic floor dysfunction and are interested in a holistic approach to treating your condition, contact the Center for Intimate Health and Wellness to schedule your initial appointment.