The medical definition of sexual dysfunction in women is hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) that is low or no libido. Like men, women’s desire for sex is effected by all sorts of factors such as relationship issues, bereavement, physical illness and the side effects of medication, job loss or work stress, depression and anxiety, recreational drugs, hormonal changes through aging and pregnancy, child birth, miscarriage.
There are conditions such as vaginismus where penetration is too painful for women to have sex but for the moment I want to look at chemical attempts to address women’s loss of sexual desire.
Unlike Viagra which treats the mechanics of erectile dysfunction, new pharmaceutical treatments in the US that aim to improve women’s sexual problems act on the brain rather than the genitals because blood flow has nothing to do with sexual function in women. At the moment there are no licensed treatments for women’s sexual dysfunction in the UK, but two in US are available for pre-menopausal women, these are Flibanserin (Addyi) and Bremelanotide (Vyleesi). They work by enhancing the neurotransmitters in the brain that support sexual arousal, reducing inhibition and encouraging sexual excitement.
These medications demand some commitment from users. Filbanserin is taken orally every evening whether you plan to have sex or not and Bremelanotide is injected into the thigh or stomach about 45 minutes before sex, no more than once every 24 hours or 8 times in a month. There are side effects such as tiredness, nausea, headache, dizziness dry mouth and these medications should not be taken with alcohol or grapefruit juice, as this may lower blood pressure to a risky level.
HSDD treatments do not claim to make sex any better rather they claim to promote an increase in women’s desire to have sex. The research determines a positive result as a limited increase in sexual activity measured as one more sexually significant event per month.
I have looked at the anecdotal experience of US women posting online. HSDD medication is extremely expensive costing several hundreds of dollars and the jury is out on its efficacy. Many women commented on the side effects, for some there was no improvement and/or the side effects were intolerable but others were extremely grateful for the difference it had made to their sex lives.
In the UK Prelox, a herbal supplement, is marketed as improving sexual function for late reproductive and post-menopausal women. There were no adverse effects during the trials but there it was noted that any improvements maybe due to a placebo effect.
Further reading by Angela Rogers –