Suffering from PTSD may take a toll on your sex life if you’re a woman, new research reveals.

About 10% of women have PTSD symptoms because of combat exposure, childhood abuse and sexual violence. Little research has been done looking at how these symptoms might affect sexual functioning among midlife women.

“As women age, there are many reasons why sexual functioning may become an issue for them,” said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director for the North American Menopause Society.

“This study highlights the need for health care professionals to ask about any history of trauma and open up the dialogue with their patients on this sensitive issue,” she said in a society news release.

Researchers studied this in more than 100 postmenopausal women ages 45 to 66. The authors accounted for factors such as age, race/ethnicity, education, vaginal estrogen use, alcohol use and depressive symptoms.

Study participants needed to have met certain criteria — they had to have experienced PTSD symptoms and had sexual activity within the month prior to evaluation.

On average, women who reported moderate and severe PTSD symptoms also reported lower sexual functioning.

The authors then considered specific aspects of PTSD symptoms. They found that greater avoidance/numbing symptoms were related to poorer sexual functioning.

The results will be presented Wednesday during the Menopause Society’s annual meeting, in Philadelphia. Findings presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The study highlights the importance of assessing and addressing PTSD symptoms among midlife women, to improve their sexual health and functioning as they age, according to the Menopause Society.

“Many midlife women experience profound changes in their mood, physical health and social relationships, in part related to the menopause transition,” said lead study author Karen Jakubowski, from the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Psychiatry.

“Currently, there is little research on the long-term health effects of PTSD symptoms, specifically among midlife women,” Jakubowski said in the release. “Our results highlight the need to better understand women’s trauma histories and PTSD symptoms in order to provide optimal clinical care for women during midlife.”

More information

The U.S. Office on Women’s Health has more on post-traumatic stress disorder.

SOURCE: Menopause Society, news release, Sept. 27, 2023