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Can Placebo Improve Sex Life Of Women?

June 21st, 2016

Can Placebo Improve Sex Life Of Women?

Can Placebo Improve Sex Life Of Women?

Healthcare professionals often finds it difficult to measure sexual satisfaction and satiety in women. This is mainly because, measurement of sexual gratification is mainly subjective in women (unlike in men in whom laboratory tests and blood studies can give vital information). For example, flow of blood to the genital tissue during excitement or sexual intercourse is not a good measure or predictor of orgasm or ample sexual gratification in women. That’s why when women report hypoactive desire disorder, healthcare professionals rely on their history and subjective complaints in order to address the issue. Likewise, treatment of sexual dysfunction in women is also complicated when compared to men.

According to latest estimates, the prevalence of sexual dysfunction in American women is 43% (1). Scientists and researchers have long been looking for drugs and pharmacological agents to address sexual dysfunction in women; but according to a new study, the solution is much simple and straight forward.

What Causes Sexual Dysfunction In Women?

Sexual dysfunction in women can be physiological or psychological. Physiological causes of sexual dysfunction include:

  • Decline in the secretion of vital hormones that are required for the regeneration of genital tracts.
  • Vaginal atrophy or atrophic changes in the female genital tract as part of physiological aging prLow Sex Drive in Women imageocess.
  • Hormonal imbalance due to certain medical or metabolic issues.
  • Adverse effect of certain drugs/ pharmacological agents that leads to vaginal dryness.

Other common factors include severe exhaustion, fatigue due to pregnancy, occupational responsibilities etc.

Besides these physiological changes, certain psychological factors can also lead to sexual dysfunction and desire disorder; such as relationship conflicts, disgust for the act of intercourse or partner etc.

How Does Placebo Improve Sexual Dysfunction In Women?

According to a new study conducted by scientists at University of Texas-Austin, investigators identified that certain placebo treatments can improve hypoactive desire disorder as well as other types of sexual dysfunction in women. As part of the study conducted at Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory by Andrea Bradford and colleagues, women with a known history of hypoactive desire disorder were enrolled in a 12-week study period. The study group was assigned Cialis (a popular drug to treat erectile dysfunction in men) and placebo group was assigned a sham drug. The results were recorded after each successful encounter via well-structured questionnaires, individual patient diaries and therapy sessions with a registered therapist.

After the completion of study period, about 1/3rd participants in the placebo group reported remarkable improvement in their symptoms without ever taking the active drug. The improvement in symptoms was reported as early as 4 weeks after initiating the placebo.

Investigators suggested that the active initiative on part of women as well as the combined mental effort and support from their partners can explain the improvement in symptoms. The active interest and willingness to control symptoms can address hypoactive sexual desire disorder due to psychological causes.

Identifying the primary etiological factor is the key to proper diagnosis and promising treatment. Decades after the discovery of Viagra for the management of male erectile dysfunction, there is no therapy to address female sexual dysfunction. Although, various drug candidates were introduced (for example flibanserin, which is also popularly referred to as Female Viagra), but no statistical significance was reported in the quality of sex life during drug approval trials.

Speak to your healthcare professional to learn more about the etiology and management of sexual dysfunction and desire disorder.


1. Candy, B., Jones, L., Vickerstaff, V., Tookman, A., & King, M. (2016). Interventions for sexual dysfunction following treatments for cancer in women. The Cochrane Library.

2. https://www.webmd.com/sex/news/20100916/placebo-effect-may-help-womens-sexual-problems

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