Would you pay £1,200 to save your sex life?: For millions of women, the menopause can take the pleasure out of lovemaking, now a startling and controversial new treatment is being touted as the answer
- Maryon Stewart explored the growing popularity of ‘The O-Shot’ treatment
- The procedure offers women stronger and more frequent orgasms
- Sharon Dombey, 55, visited Dr Hina Sra’s clinic in Harley Street for the treatment
- Her own blood was injected directly into her vagina and below her clitoris
- Hina says the no-downtime £1200 treatment can rejuvenate the whole area
- Other experts warn the treatment can cause nerve damage and infection
- A study show 79 per cent of women struggle to orgasm after the menopause
When Sharon Dombey walked down Harley Street one afternoon last month, anyone observing her casually nip inside one of its many private clinics might well have assumed she was keeping an appointment for some minor beauty tweak.
In fact, 55-year-old Sharon, who tutors child actors, is perfectly happy with her appearance; the issue she was looking for a little ‘help’ with was rather more delicate than a spot of Botox or filler could ever address. To put it bluntly, Sharon wanted better orgasms and was prepared to do something about it. Hormonal changes caused by the menopause meant they had become disappointingly lacklustre and increasingly difficult to achieve.
‘As someone who’s always enjoyed a healthy sex life, and taken a satisfying orgasm pretty much for granted, I found this hard to accept,’ Sharon says. ‘I’d stopped enjoying sex — it wasn’t just my difficulties having an orgasm; since the menopause it had also become quite painful. This meant making love had gone from being a bonding experience with my husband to just another thing on the ‘to-do’ list, and then eventually something I just wanted to avoid altogether.
Hormonal health expert Maryon Stewart, explored the growing popularity of ‘The O-Shot’ treatment – Sharon Dombey, 55, (pictured) revealed her experience of the procedure
‘I didn’t want my sex life to die out in such a sad way. And when I discovered I could do something about it, and start having the kind of exciting sex again I used to enjoy, I felt I owed it to myself and our relationship to give it a try.’
So what was the little something Sharon, who lives with her 58-year-old husband in the Home Counties, was so keen to try?
A cutting edge treatment called The O-Shot (‘O’ being short for the obvious), which claims to help you achieve much stronger and more frequent orgasms.
It’s an intimate procedure and not for the faint hearted.
Women are injected with their own blood plasma directly into the vagina and then again just below the clitoris, stimulating the body into rejuvenating the whole area. Sharon was, unsurprisingly, nervous at the prospect of having this done. But also encouraged by claims that, as well as making sex more pleasurable, the treatment can improve various symptoms of sexual dysfunction, such as pain during and after sex, vaginal dryness and reduced sensitivity.
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‘Of course, the sound of this procedure is enough to make any woman immediately want to cross her legs,’ says Dr Hina Sra, who treated Sharon.
A consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician, Hina has a private practice in Harley Street, called Cosmebeaute. It’s here that she has been offering women the O-Shot treatment for the past year.
But, says Hina: ‘As Sharon can verify after I performed it on her, done correctly the O-Shot procedure causes barely any discomfort, and with really fantastic outcomes.’
Sharon agrees. ‘I didn’t feel a thing,’ she insists, explaining that Hina ensured the two points where she’d be injected were treated with numbing cream and ice, followed by local anaesthetic.
So, what is O-Shot and how and why does it work? ‘It’s produced from a 10ml sample of the patient’s own blood,’ says Hina. ‘I take it from their arm, and this is then spun in a centrifuge — a machine with a rapidly rotating container that applies centrifugal force to separate its contents, separate fluids of different densities — to extract the plasma from it.
Consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Hina Sra (pictured) treated Sharon at her private practice in Harley Street, called Cosmebeaute
‘Plasma is rich in platelets that contain growth hormone factors — we call this PRP. This is then injected back first into the patient’s arterial vaginal wall and then just below the clitoris. The whole process only takes around 20 minutes.’
Athletes have been using PRP for decades because of its ability to help speed up the healing process after injury — it’s thought to stimulate the body’s own stem cells to produce new tissue including collagen, nerve endings and blood vessels, which is why they often turn to it for help with things such as torn tendons. And because PRP is made from a patient’s own blood, the body readily accepts it.
More recently PRP been used in rejuvenating beauty treatments — think the Vampire Facial — but it’s only been used for treating sexual dysfunction for the past couple of years.
Men take the lead
65 per cent of heterosexual women ‘usually or always’ orgasm during sex, compared with 95 per cent of men
The O-Shot treatment was developed by American doctor Dr Charles Runels, who worked as a product developer and research chemist before medical school.
I must be clear it’s a procedure that has plenty of critics, in part because of the lack of scientific proof of its effectiveness and the fact any evidence it works seems purely anecdotal.
And as any doctor will tell you, all injections carry certain risks such as bleeding, infection and damaging the nerve endings.
Sushma Srikrishna is a consultant urogynaecologist at King’s College Hospital, and told me she does not endorse this procedure. ‘There haven’t been any trials to compare safety, results or side-effects in the short term and long term,’ she says.
‘But the biggest concern for me is that injecting anything repeatedly into the vagina and clitoris area can potentially lead to possible infections, scarring and ultimately a worse sex life.’
Dr Leila Frodsham of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says the O-shot procedure effectively gives women a blood clot (file image)
Only last month consultant gynaecologist Anne Henderson warned women that the injection could cause nerve damage that could cause pain rather than resolve it.
While Dr Leila Frodsham, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Institute of Psychosexual Medicine, agreed, saying: ‘This procedure is effectively giving you a haematoma, a blood clot, which are often caused by a trauma, such as childbirth or a saddle bar injury. Women with blood clots in this area generally complain of increased pain or reduced sensation.’
Clearly, this is a controversial treatment, and I’m simply not qualified to say whether it really does work. But what’s not up for debate is the fact that sexual problems can be common during and after menopause, when vaginal tissues often become thinner, making sex less enjoyable and even painful.
And Hina firmly believes this treatment helps plump things back up. She says: ‘With this procedure you can rejuvenate the whole area, making the vagina and clitoris more sensitive and responsive and so improving the quality of a woman’s orgasm.
‘There’s no downtime — you can literally have sex later that same day. It takes up to three months for you to feel the full benefit, and I recommend women come back for another treatment every 18 months. But it can actually last for up to three years.’
So, despite the controversy, the all-important question that needs answering is: did this procedure, which costs around £1,200 for the two injections, improve Sharon’s sexual experiences?
Sharon (pictured) says the controversial treatment improved her sex life making it easier to orgasm and led to a more pleasurable experience
‘Very much so,’ she says. ‘Hina said we could try it that night, but we didn’t actually have sex for a few days. That was only because we’ve still got a teenager living at home and I wanted to be completely relaxed, so we waited for an empty house. Also, I was a bit nervous, simply because we hadn’t had sex for several months. But when we did, I found it all so much more pleasurable; it was much easier to have an orgasm, and yes that was much more intense. And of course that’s only going to get better in a couple of months.
‘I also didn’t find sex painful. The fact it was all so much more enjoyable means I’m now in a mindset where I want to keep doing it, and that’s making me feel much closer to my husband.
‘I was pushing him away even if he just wanted to cuddle me, in case he thought that might lead to us then having sex. That was really hurtful for him, and depressing for me because I’d get all flustered if we had any kind of contact. I didn’t even want to kiss him because he might have thought I wanted more.
‘In the past, when we had an empty house, I’d think, “Oh God, I hope he doesn’t get any ideas”, whereas now I think “Oh great — let’s make the most of it.” Doesn’t that say it all?’ I’d say so. Indeed, I’m delighted to hear Sharon talking so positively about her sex life — and those all-important orgasms — post-menopause.
As an expert in women’s hormonal health, time and again I speak to clients who complain the menopause has left them feeling switched off sexually.
This devastates them, and has a terrible impact on their relationships through lack of intimacy — they get depressed, while their partners feel rejected and unwanted as their sex lives dwindle away.
Often they are able to rekindle their libido by making dietary changes and taking one or two supplements shown to boost sex drive. But in some cases women feel robbed of their treasured libido, and I believe they owe it to themselves to get it back.
Because make no mistake, orgasms matter — and not just because they feel so good. Hina says: ‘Female orgasm is a complex procedure, and there is still debate regarding the physiology of it.
‘When a woman reaches orgasm, the muscles in her vagina and uterus involuntarily and rhythmically contract and relax. At the same time, her brain releases the neuro-transmitter dopamine — the feel-good chemical — and oxytocin, which promotes feelings of closeness and empathy.
Sharon (pictured) revealed before the O-shot treatment she would deliberately push her husband away to avoid having sex
‘Women want and deserve to feel what a strong orgasm can give them. I can see up to four women a week for this procedure; many are older ladies, like Sharon. But I see plenty of younger women, too, who simply want to enhance sexual gratification.’
And quite right too. Because those wonderful hormones Hina mentions really do have a marvellous impact on a woman’s physical and mental health — and are especially helpful in later life.
That’s because orgasms raise endorphin levels, which helps flush out the stress hormone cortisol, leaving you deeply relaxed and able to sleep better.
The oxytocin also makes you feel closer to your partner — a relationship that comes under considerable pressure during menopause if you’re suffering from mood swings and anxiety.
Meanwhile, that dopamine hit can give your self-esteem a powerful boost — again, something that can be much needed if menopausal symptoms are dragging you down.
Then there’s the way an orgasm gets the blood pumping, sending it to the brain and pelvis, keeping both vital areas of the body well oxygenated and healthy. I even read a study recently that suggested having regular, satisfying sex can make you look younger.
What a shame orgasms don’t come on prescription — but then losing your ability to climax is such a taboo that so many of the women I work with as a menopause expert are reluctant to even share this problem with friends, let alone their GP.
Research shows 79 per cent of women who’ve experienced menopause struggle to orgasm and in some cases find it impossible (file image)
They’ll speak openly about all sorts of other symptoms, including hot flushes, night sweats and anxiety. But embarrassment and perhaps even a fear of somehow losing face means they suffer in silence about this sort of thing.
In my most recent relationship survey, which had 640 responses, 79 per cent of women told me that the menopause has made it more difficult, if not impossible, to orgasm. And 93 per cent reported a reduced, or non-existent libido.
Yet there is plenty women can do to improve things — even if their budget doesn’t stretch to a Harley Street treatment.
By making a few dietary changes and taking herbal supplements, many of my clients reported improvements to their libido and the condition of their vaginal tissues. This means they feel like having sex again, and when they do it no longer hurts.
One of my clients is 55-year-old Lorraine Hegarty, a midwife from Reading who is married to a compliance officer, 57. Low oestrogen levels started impacting her on sex life five years ago when her menopause began.
Together we managed to control her hot flushes, mood swings and anxiety and are now concentrating on her libido.
Lorraine says: ‘Over the past year I seemed to lose my mojo. As well as having low libido, terrible dryness and irritation made sex horribly painful. Having an orgasm became the last thing on my mind because I just wanted sex to stop whenever we tried.
‘But even on occasions when sex didn’t hurt, the sensitivity had gone — I wasn’t getting anything out of it, which was unlike me as I used to love getting intimate. I missed orgasms, but more than that I missed the way they made me feel close to my husband.
‘We used to have sex at least once each week, and it was lovely — a really important part of our relationship that made us both feel wanted and appreciated.
‘But then the spontaneity went because I was always so scared it’d hurt that the thought of having sex at all scared me.
‘I tried HRT, which I know some women say helps get their sex life back, but it made me feel terrible; I felt unwell and generally not myself, so I came straight off it.’
Like Sharon, Lorraine is going to give the O-Shot a try. But she’s also working with me on various natural measures that will help switch her back on below the waist.
We’ve cleaned up her diet again taking out red wine and wheat, which I suspect she’s reacting to with thrush-like irritation.
She’s also taking the isoflavone rich supplement Promensil, plus Omega 7 SBA24 to help heal her vaginal tissues, while consuming foods rich in naturally occurring oestrogen including soya products and flaxseeds.
‘I’d never have been able to tell my doctor about my issues,’ adds Lorraine. ‘I’d have felt too embarrassed. I’m glad I’m doing something about it now. And it seems to be working because the last time we had sex it was less painful and more pleasurable. I’m starting to feel positive about my sex life again.’
Why does your libido flag – and how can you fix it?
1. Low levels of nutrients send us into ‘economy mode’ leaving us feeling switched off sexually.
2. We get tired, lack energy and experience mood swings which dampen our relationship.
3. Falling levels of oestrogen cause us to pile on the pounds, wrecking our self-image.
4. From the mid-40s onwards, as we head into perimenopause and oestrogen levels start to drop, the lining of the vagina often becomes dry, making sex uncomfortable.
5. During menopause, just the thought of being touched can bring on a hot surge, leaving us dripping with perspiration.
How to relight your fire
1. Put sex back on the menu by swapping a takeaway on the sofa for a candle-lit meal full of foods that will boost your libido such as salmon steaks or tofu with stir-fry celery, parsnips and asparagus, or avocado salad with rocket, pine nuts, edamame beans and figs served with a balsamic dressing.
2. Give your hormones a boost and heal your tissues by adding natural oestrogen-rich soy and flaxseeds into your diet. Start the day with a smoothie made of watermelon, soya milk and chopped root ginger served over ice.
3. Get up and move to keep nutrient and hormone-rich blood flowing through your pelvis.
4. Take the libido-boosting pycnogenol — a pill made from French pine bark — and amino acid-rich supplement Lady Prelox or Femmenessence MacaPause, made from organic Peruvian maca to get your tingle back.
5. Switch off your phone and switch on to massage with some sensual lavender, almond or jojoba oil.
Maryon Stewart runs a six-week online Menopause Boot Camp teaching women how to overcome menopause symptoms and reclaim libido. She will be answering questions live at her free virtual menopause class —
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