A new study led by KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) found that nearly 60 per cent of the Singapore women they surveyed experienced low sexual function. This is an indicator of sexual dysfunction developing in these females.
Sexual dysfunction in females is defined as having persistent recurrent problems during sex including but not limited to the feeling of pain. It is said to be a "significant public health problem" globally.
Almost 60% At Risk Of Developing Sexual Dysfunction In Singaporean Females
The first-of-its-kind study was published in June this year. Researchers examined more than 500 women in Singapore who were in the reproductive age group of 18 to 45 years and were trying to conceive within the year.
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For the study, women were instructed to rate their personal sexual experiences in the following six areas:
Each of these questions were assigned a score from zero to five, with a sum of the total score ranging from two to 30. Those with total scores at or below the median value of 22 were determined to have low sexual function.
The risk of sexual dysfunction in these females was also uncovered through the study.
The researchers also interviewed the women on their personal details including:
- Ethnicity and marital status
- Pregnancy history
- Lifestyle habits
They also had their physical activity and mental health assessed as part of the study.
Participants were then provided with home pregnancy tests. They followed up with their results for up to one year as they attempted to conceive.
- Findings revealed that 58.6 per cent of Asian women in Singapore had scores of less than 22. This suggests that they are at risk of sexual dysfunction.
- According to the study, low sexual desire and rarely reaching orgasm were two of the most commonly reported issues in these women.
- It was also found that compared to women with high sexual function, those with low sexual function saw their chances of getting pregnant within the year drop by 27 per cent. This could be to due how these women have less sex because of "unpleasant sexual experience and difficulties with intimacy."
Researchers add that psychological distress can trigger hormonal imbalance; and can interfere with ovulation and thus, delay pregnancy.
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Sexual Dysfunction In Females Is A "Significant Public Health Problem" Around The World
The study uncovered the rate of increase of sexual dysfunction in females in Singapore. The condition is also a phenomenon observed all across the world.
It has affected many women in the reproductive age group with more than 40 per cent suffering from it worldwide. The study notes how this makes it a "significant public health problem."
As per KKH, their Sexual Health Clinic operated under their Women's Health and Wellness Centre has been managing an average of 90 new cases of sexual dysfunction annually in the last three years.
The hospital also reveals how the most common form of female sexual dysfunction is vaginismus. This condition involves the muscles in the vagina tightening involuntarily, preventing any object from entering it. It not only affects sex, but also vaginal medical examinations.
In 2020, the Sexual Health Clinic at KKH saw 100 new cases of vaginismus, which is a 60 per cent jump from 2017. This was even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic when hospital visits for non-life-threatening conditions were affected.
It was suggested by the hospital that this could be due to the increased awareness surrounding sexual dysfunction and where people can seek help for the condition.
Low Sexual Function In Women Plays A "Major Part" In Singapore's Low Fertility Rate
KKH warns that if unresolved, sexual dysfunction in females can affect their mental and physical health. This includes the relationship and quality of life for both the woman and her partner.
Dr Tan Tse Yeun, a consultant at KKH's Department of Reproductive Medicine, affirms how low sexual function among local women could also play "a major part" in contributing to Singapore's low fertility rate. Back in 2019, the country's fertility rate was 1.1, which was among the lowest in the world.
"If this problem persists, it could contribute towards the already declining national birth rate," adds Dr Tan, as per CNA.
The study then suggests giving more attention to evaluating a woman's sexual experience as part of preconception care programmes. This could then provide more opportunities to "intervene and resolve sexual dysfunction issues with women and their partners early".
With this, women can have better health and quality of life with a "potential beneficial effect on pregnancy outcomes."
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KKH Announces Care Package To Optimise Women's Sexual Health
Recognising this "unmet clinical need" for preconception care services, KKH is putting in place a comprehensive care package that aims to optimise women's sexual health and their overall health before conception.
KKH also recently launched the SingHealth Duke-NUS Maternal and Child Health Research Institute. This is where they announced the care package called Healthy Early Life Moments in Singapore or HELMS.
KKH senior consultant Professor Jerry Chan described it as a "life course approach in that the woman will be followed from preconception, through pregnancy and after the baby is born."
Caroline Chua, a senior principal physiotherapist at KKH, also says, "Educating women about sexual wellbeing and sexuality issues, de-stigmatising and normalising these topics as well as encouraging more discussions and conversations will go a long way in encouraging better sexual experience in women."
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