For most urologists, men’s sexual health is a key part of a practice. But as Jessica Yih, MD, was finishing her urology residency, she couldn’t help but think: What about women?
“I kept wondering how I could help overlooked women with their sexual health,” Dr. Yih says. “Many of us don’t talk to women about it enough and, from my experience, many women don’t have anyone to go to where they can bring up concerns about their sex life.”
Hoping to fill this need and help more women in the Columbus area, Dr. Yih launched a new female sexual medicine clinic within The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Department of Urology. The new program, which started in October 2020, will help educate and treat women with sexual function problems.
Finding a like-minded mentor
While she was still in her residency, Dr. Yih wasn’t sure how she could pursue a focus on female sexual health or how she could help more women with their sexual function. But serendipity struck at a urology conference, where she met Irwin Goldstein, MD, of San Diego Sexual Medicine. Dr. Goldstein had been presenting on female sexual health at the conference.
After connecting, Dr. Yih began a fellowship alongside Dr. Goldstein at San Diego Sexual Medicine. Although Dr. Yih treated both men and women, the number of women who came in for sexual treatment was inspiring. Many of them had traveled from across the country for treatment.
“It was exciting to see that many women come in for sexual health, and to give them a space where they could talk about it and get help,” Dr. Yih says. “These women finally found someone willing to talk to them and work with them to find a solution, and it was very rewarding to be able to give them that.”
Bringing female sexual health care to Columbus
With her fellowship experience in San Diego, Dr. Yih knew she wanted to find a position where she could start a similar program to help women. With the support of Cheryl Lee, MD, chair of the Department of Urology, Dr. Yih joined the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, and shortly after launched a female sexual health care program.
The program, which is held at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s Ear and Eye Institute campus, can help women who have issues with libido, lubrication, orgasm or pain during sex.
“For a lot of women, these problems are something they’ve been struggling with for a long time and they’re often told nothing can be done or their only option is psychotherapy,” Dr. Yih says. “When they meet with us, it’s important that we’re sensitive to their needs and understand how much these issues can affect their life.”
Dr. Yih hopes to give women a safe and comfortable place to talk about these issues and explore treatments like physical therapy, sex therapy, surgery or medication. She believes a biopsychosocial model is important and works in an interdisciplinary team with physical therapists, gynecologists and sex therapists. Dr. Yih also hopes the program can be a resource for educating women about their bodies and healthy sexual function.
As part of the education piece, Dr. Yih is planning to offer vulvoscopy procedures. Like cystoscopies, a vulvoscopy uses a small camera to show detailed images of the vulva, clitoris, vagina, vestibule, urethral meatus and peri-urethral anterior wall tissue.
“This procedure can help reduce anxiety and give women a better understanding of their bodies, so they can take ownership of it and feel more comfortable addressing sexual health issues,” Dr. Yih says.
Building awareness for women’s sexual health
Although the program is in its early stages, Dr. Yih is aiming to build up the practice. Ideally, she’d like to expand it outside of the Ear and Eye Institute location to the New Albany location, where the Center for Women’s Pelvic Health will open in the summer of 2021. For now, the focus is on raising awareness within the community.
With the FDA recently approving new medications for women’s sexual function, Dr. Yih is hopeful that more women in the area will think about their sexual health and come to Ohio State for treatment.
“With these new medications out now, more people are talking about female sexual function and patients are starting to see it pop up more,” Dr. Yih says. “Hopefully, that gets people thinking about it and understanding that it’s an important issue for both men and women.”
Even with these recent approvals, Dr. Yih points out that there are still only two FDA-approved medications for women’s sexual function. Meanwhile, there are more than a dozen on the market for men.
“Women’s sexual health has been controversial in our culture and society, which means women can’t get easily get help for their sexual health issues,” Dr. Yih says. “As physicians, we need to legitimize the issue that sexual health is a part of medical health and that it’s an important part of a person’s life.
“We should be bringing women up to the level of sexual health care we’re at with men,” she adds.