The study is the first to look extensively at sexual function in women who underwent a bariatric procedure.
Women reporting the poorest quality of sexual function prior to surgery saw the most dramatic improvements one year after surgery, on par with women who reported the highest quality of sexual function prior to surgery.
The new report by researchers with the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania appears in JAMA Surgery.
A number of procedures fall under the heading of bariatric surgery, such as reducing the size of the stomach with a gastric band or by removing part of the stomach; or gastric bypass surgery, cutting out part of the small intestines and rerouting to a small stomach pouch.
More than half of women who seek bariatric surgery report signs of sexual dysfunction and, consequentially, psychological stress.
“For many people, sex is an important part of quality of life. The massive weight losses typically seen following bariatric surgery are associated with significant improvements in quality of life,” said the study’s lead author David Sarwer, Ph.D.
“This is one of the first studies to show that women also experience improvements in their sexual functioning and satisfaction, as well as significant improvements in their reproductive hormones.”
Researchers followed 106 women with an average body mass index of 44.5 who underwent bariatric surgery (85 had gastric bypass and 21 had gastric banding procedures).
Following surgery, the women lost an average of 32.7 percent of their original body weight after the first year, and 33.5 percent at the end of the second year.
Two years after surgery, women reported significant improvements across all categories of sexual function, sex hormones and quality of life.
Improvements were seen in overall sexual function as well as specific areas of sexual function including: desire, arousal, lubrication, and overall satisfaction.
The researchers also found significant improvements in all hormone levels of interest, which may impact both sexual behavior as well as fertility. While the study did not look directly at the correlation between surgically induced weight loss and reproductive status, they did find indirect evidence that there may be a potential impact, based on improvements in fertility-related hormone levels
Women reported improvements in all domains of health and weight-related quality of life in the study, as well as improvements in body image, depressive symptoms and relationship satisfaction.