Placebo or Pill? Can Either Boost Your Libido?
The ever constant search of an “instant drug fix” to help women overcome a low sex drive has led to the release of Flibanserin.
Hailed as the new treatment for low libido in premenopausal women to enhance sexual response, does Flibanserin really work?
Following demand from women’s groups for a pill to alleviate sexual problems which matched that of Viagra, Flibanserin has since been approved and dubbed the “pink Viagra”. However, not only does it not work in the same way as Viagra, women’s sexual desire is more complex and very different to that of men.
Taken daily rather than when you want sex, Flibanserin aims to treat low desire but only in premenopausal women and comes with a variety of potential side effects. In a similar way to antidepressants, it can take weeks to have an effect too.
The outcome of taking Flibanserin in a study led to women having 0.8 more satisfying sexual events per month than the women on placebo, who also found their sex lives improved too (Basson.R et al, 2015).
As to what the “satisfying sexual outcomes” were are unknown. Were they just enjoying sex or actually having an orgasm?
“An additional half are having a satisfying sexual encounter a month” has led to the medical profession to question just how meaningful is that to a woman when there are many side effects and restrictions to taking the drug.
The effectiveness of the placebo in the trial was remarkable and didn’t cause side effects, whereas the Flibanserin group experienced dizziness, nausea, fatigue and insomnia, leading to some women stepping down from the trial.
Also, women were warned that the drug’s concentration increased if she drank alcohol, took an oral contraceptive or any 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 hyperactive sexual desire disorder, yet there are many factors, both physical and mental that can impact upon sexual desire.
Why do I have a 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 really natural to not want sex or experience low 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 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.
The Placebo Effect
Researchers at the Medical University of Vienna (2015) 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.
Research from the University of Texas (2010) found that women who experienced a lower sex drive enjoyed greater sexual satisfaction after taking a placebo.The expectation to enjoy a better sex life was found to have a positive effect on sexual well being.
Communication improves sexual satisfaction
Research from 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 people, found 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 sexual satisfaction.
Sexual Exploration can boost your sex life
A sexual satisfaction survey conducted by Good in Bed (2013) found that many men and women are happy to experiment with their sex lives, by incorporating sex toys into their sex play and trying different positions. Of the 4,800 men and women 53.2% of men and 39.8 % of women would indulge their partners to improve their sex lives.
Keeping the passion alive in long term relationships can cause a dip in your sexual desire but there are ways in which you can keep desire going.
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.
However some of these problems can be overcome using lubricants, changing sexual position and trying slim vibrators. 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, including those in the USA where prescriptions for Flibanserin are low (2016). It’s too easy for healthcare professionals to write a prescription and send you on your way, exploring alternative ways to enjoy sex have fewer side effects and is more fun!
We work with many proactive healthcare professionals who recommend some of our suitable products, showing them in clinics and giving out our health brochure. They also signpost their patients to our articles and videos as they view them as a valuable resource for practical sexual intimacy and pleasure advice.
Healthcrae professionals need training to help them talk to their patients about sexual issues, to be able to offer advice beyond their medical training and prescription pad. Some GPs offer excellent advice which leads to their patients feeling happier, healthier and enjoying pleasurable sex lives too!
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.