Placebo Pill Gives Boost to Some Women's Sex
THURSDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- About one-third of women
given a placebo pill to treat a low libido reported improvements in
their sex lives, a finding researchers say is evidence of the
powerful and somewhat mysterious mind-body connection surrounding
arousal and desire.
After drugs like Viagra and Cialis revolutionized the treatment
of male sexual dysfunction in the late 1990s, a flurry of clinical
trials were conducted in women in the hopes that the drugs could do
the same to revive a woman's flagging sex drive.
The drugs flopped in women. But recently, researchers went back
and looked at the old data on Cialis and found that not only did
about 35 percent of women given the placebo pill experience
significant improvement in psychological aspects of sex such as
desire, many reported improvements in the physical aspects of
arousal, including better lubrication, more frequent orgasms or
more easily attainable orgasms, according to the study.
"Everything across the board improved in some women," said study author Andrea Bradford, a post-doctoral fellow at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
The study is published in the current issue of the
Journal of Sexual Medicine.
In the original study, 50 women aged 35 to 55 who were diagnosed
with female sexual arousal disorder were given either Cialis or a
placebo for 12 weeks. The women, most of whom were married, were
asked to have sex at least three times a month. "Many went above
and beyond," Bradford noted.
Women also had to keep a diary of how often they had sex and how
satisfying it was.
Bradford suspects the improvements were due to several aspects
of the study -- the hope that the pill might be working plus
speaking with medical professionals about sex, thinking about sex
and trying to have better sex.
"I think just the act of attending to their sex lives was very therapeutic for some women," Bradford said.
Over time, the frequency with which women had sex dropped some,
but they continued to report better sex lives overall. "It was
quality over quantity," she said.
When sex is no longer satisfying, women tend to avoid it, noted
Aline Zolbrod, a Boston-area clinical psychologist and sex
therapist. Without at least giving it a try, there's little hope
sex will get better.
"I love this study," Zolbrod said. "It does what we'd like to get our patients to do, which is to start having sex again. Instead of getting into bed and sighing, 'Oh, this is never going to work,' instead they are getting into bed and thinking, 'Let's see what happens.' When you have that attitude and you have sex almost once a week, for some women it really did the trick."
The ages of 35 to 55 can be difficult for women, who may be
balancing careers, family responsibilities and assorted worries
that seemingly leave little time to feel erotic, Zolbrod said.
Many women, even those who don't have sexual dysfunction, may be
able to learn a bit from the study, she added.
"Just try it. Hope for good things. Don't avoid it. Go in with good expectations. And communicate a little bit about what makes you feel good in your body," Zolbrod said. "Maybe we should all be in a research study. It might help."
U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on
female sexual dysfunction.
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