OB/GYN Specializes in Women’s Sexual Dysfunction
authors Lucy Schultze
Becky Kaufman Lynn, MD, has only been part of the SLUCare Physician Group’s OB/GYN department for six months, but already her practice is busy with referrals.
“Traditionally, physicians aren’t trained in sexual medicine and some people don’t feel comfortable talking about it,” said Lynn, whose specialty in women’s sexual health is filling a key niche for her patient population.
“In addition to practicing as a generalist, I also specialize in difficulties with low libido, arousal, orgasm and painful intercourse,” she said. “A practice like this fills a need. There are not any other OB/GYNs in the area who specialize in women’s sexual dysfunction. I think other physicians are grateful to have someone they can refer to when these problems arise.”
A native of California, Lynn studied economics and Spanish as an undergraduate at the University of California-Berkeley, deciding later to attend medical school. She became interested in women’s health during post-baccalaureate studies to complete her prerequisites as she was working for a reproductive endocrinologist studying how anorexia affects bone density and menstrual cycles. While she kept an open mind during medical school, her experience in rotations confirmed her choice to focus on women’s health.
“I also love delivering babies,” she said. “It’s such a magical time in a woman’s life. I enjoy taking care of women in all stages of life.”
Lynn earned her medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine and completed her residency at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. She said addressing women’s sexual problems was not part of her training during residency. As she was treating a largely underserved population, issues about libido or orgasm were also not something her patients often asked about.
When she went into private practice in Jefferson City, Mo., things were different.
“Every day, someone would ask me about low sex drive,” she said. “I really didn’t know what to tell women. At that point, I took a course on and learned so much about women’s sexual problems. I felt like when women had difficulties, I could help.”
Lynn soon joined the faculty of the University of Missouri School of Medicine in Columbia. When in a faculty meeting, a urogynecologist asked if anyone wanted to take care of patients’ sexual problems, Lynn volunteered.
“I began getting referrals,” she said. “It occurred to me: Maybe I need to continue to learn how to manage and treat this.”
Lynn continued her training and became an active member of the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH), which has become a portal for her continued learning. At a conference, she was introduced to sexual expert Michael Krychman, MD, and went on to study under him for a preceptorship in sexual medicine at his Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship in Laguna Beach.
Today, Lynn stays involved in ISSWSH as a member of two committees. She is also working to become a sex counselor and is on track to complete that certification by fall 2016.
“The longer I do this, the more I realize that women’s sexual problems are related to not just medical issues but to relationship and communication issues,” she said. “I would refer patients to a therapist, but many times they wouldn’t go, and they would come back to me again. I always felt like that was the part of the puzzle I couldn’t fix. I feel blessed to be able to learn these new skills, so that I can complete the puzzle.”
Lynn said she feels fortunate that her department has been supportive of her adding a counseling dimension to her practice. Such visits are longer than a regular medical visit, and women are welcome to bring their partners.
“Your typical busy physician gets 15 minutes with you,” Lynn said. “But for counseling visits, I have an hour each visit. Four sexual dysfunction visits, I have an hour for the first visit and 30 minutes for return visits.
“I’m learning skills that help to draw out the issues, but people won’t always reveal to you their deepest concerns on the first visit. You have to establish trust, and at a later visit they may tell you something that’s the missing piece. It becomes more of an ongoing relationship with the patient.”
Lynn said she’s not yet certain how her practice will grow into a balance between counseling visits and traditional OB/GYN visits. Her work also includes seeing many cancer patients for whom treatments have caused sexual difficulties. Beginning this month, she will be seeing patients on a regular basis in the SLU Cancer Center.
Lynn is also one of a handful of area doctors now prescribing Addyi, the newly approved drug for treating hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in women. The drug, which acts on brain chemicals associated with desire, hit the market this past October and was hailed as women’s answer to Viagra.
“Men’s sexual health has been out in the open longer,” Lynn said. “There are some 26 drugs on the market for men, and up until October, there were zero for women.”
Lynn said that because the topic has been largely taboo, many women don’t know there are options for the treatment of their sexual problems.
“It’s important for women to know that there are answers, and that they don’t have to suffer in silence,” she said. “Patients may not bring these issues up because they don’t know who to ask and they don’t know that sexual problems may be related to the medicines they’re on. But there are options out there to help them and a lot of things that can be done.”
Outside of her medical practice, Lynn is an avid runner. She has completed an Iron Man triathlon but now limits herself to one marathon a year. She is also a former ballet dancer.
A breast-cancer survivor, she is involved in fundraising for breast cancer research, including once riding her bicycle from London to Paris on a fundraising mission.
Lynn and her husband Patrick, a Kansas City native, have two children, ages 13 and 11.
International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health
SLUCare Physician Group: Dr. Becky Lynn