Campaigners say the treatment costs just 43p per day for the pills, consultancy and follow-up
Campaigners say the treatment costs just 43p per day for the pills, consultancy and follow-up

Female Viagra: Do women need the Flibanserin pill to boost their libidos?

The "pink Viagra" pill has answered demand, but are there other ways to boost sex drive? 

Samantha Evans
Friday 04 December 2015 18:11
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Hailed as the new treatment for low libido in premenopausal women, does Flibanserin really work?

Following demand for a pill to alleviate sexual problems which matched that of Viagra, Flibanserin has been developed, approved and dubbed the “pink Viagra”. However, not only does it not work in the same way as Viagra, but women’s sexual desire is very different to men’s, as it is more complex.

Taken daily rather than shortly before you plan to have sex, Flibanserin aims to treat low desire but comes with a variety of potential side effects. In a similar way to antidepressants, it can take weeks to have an effect.

A recent study showed that women who took Flibanserin had 0.8 more satisfying sexual events per month on average than the women on placebo who also found their sex lives improved too.

As to what the satisfying sexual outcomes are unknown. The effectiveness of the placebo in the trial was remarkable and didn’t cause side effects, whereas the Flibanserin group experienced dizziness, nausea, feeling sleepy, fatigue and insomnia, leading to some women stepping down from the trial.

Also, it was found that the drug’s concentration increases if the woman drinks alcohol, takes an oral contraceptive or some commonly used medicines such as fungal treatment for thrush, migraines and depression.

It is designed to treat low sexual desire, yet what may feel low for one woman may seem normal for another. A woman needs to report feelings of significant distress to be diagnosed with hypoactive sexual desire disorder, yet there are many factors, both physical and mental that can impact upon sexual desire.

Reasons for lack of sexual desire

Low or lack of sexual desire is the most common sexual complaint of women of all ages. It is also difficult to treat but often there are simple reasons as to why women don’t want sex.

It is natural to not want sex or feel sexual desire but if this feeling continues, it can be problematic.

Libido is affected by hormonal changes, something all women experience through childbirth, breastfeeding, menstruation, contraception and the menopause.

The added stress of caring for children and older relations, work commitments and money worries can feel overwhelming, in addition to the pressure the media and women place upon themselves to be perfect.

Excessive dieting and yo-yo dieting are damaging to our bodies as we need a certain level of fat for sex hormones, such as oestrogen, to function normally.

Some medication can dampen feelings of sexual desire such as antidepressants, cancer treatments and medications for high blood pressure. If you think your medication is affecting your sexual function, talk to your doctor about changing to an alternative which may have less side effects.

Communication improves sexual satisfaction

Researchers at the Medical University of Vienna recently found that sniffing oxytocin, the hormone associated with bonding, improves the sexual experience of women suffering from sexual dysfunction. Oxytocin is known as the feel good hormone because it increases overall happiness and well being and is easy to get simply by hugging someone, shaking their hand or stroking your pet.

However, the control group who sniffed a placebo also showed similar results. This led Michaela Bayerle-Eder, lead study author, to conclude that many of the women thought more about their sexuality and sexual needs during the trial, and therefore spoke to their partners about sex during the study.

A 2012 study at the Cleveland State University (2012) has shown that good communication in the bedroom leads to better sexual satisfaction. People who are more comfortable talking about sex are more likely to do so during sex, which in turn, can enhance sexual pleasure.

Relate, the relationship counselling service, has also reported that communication is the most common cause of couples not experiencing sexual satisfaction.

Many people are uncomfortable talking about sex with their partner, yet communicating what you like and don’t like about sex, what turns you on and how you feel about sex can greatly improve your satisfaction.

Sexual Exploration can boost your sex life

Having said that, just talking will not help many women who experience sexual dysfunction, such as vaginal dryness, vaginal tightness, postoperative scarring and decreased sensation as a result of surgery, medical conditions and cancer treatments.

Some of these problems can be overcome using lubricants, changing sexual position and trying slim vibrators. Recognising that many women experience symptoms of sexual dysfunction, we at JoDivine created a health brochure with urogynaecologist Dr Alex Slack,women's health physiotherapist Pip Salmon and gynaecology and ward manager at Tunbridge Wells Hospital Lynda Wickenden. It contained advice about slim vibrators, lubricants and pelvic floor exercisers that health care professionals can give to their patients during consultations and following treatment.

Such products can be beneficial to sexual health and improve sexual pleasure too. Sex should be fun but popping a pill isn’t the way forward for many women.

Choosing the natural route, through talking to your partner about sex and sexual issues, being imaginative with your sex play by incorporating sex toys, bondage and lubricants and having fun will make sex more pleasurable for you both.

Samantha Evans is a former nurse, sexual health and wellbeing expert and co owner of retailer JoDivine.com.

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