Risk for low sexual desire increases in women after surgical menopause

New research shows women who experience hysterectomy and oophorectomy are at higher risk for low sexual desire

February 28, 2006 – A cross-sectional survey of European women shows that surgically menopausal women are at increased risk for low sexual desire. In the March 2006 issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers have published the first-ever multi-cultural prevalence study using multi-dimensional psychometrically valid outcomes to determine if women who undergo surgical menopause have a greater risk of low sexual interest compared with that of pre-menopausal or naturally menopausal women.

Naturally menopausal women experience decreases in their sexual function with aging. The authors concluded that surgically menopausal women, when compared to pre-menopausal or naturally menopausal women are at a significantly increased risk for low sexual desire and also decreased pleasure, and orgasmic difficulties. The research, in an article entitled, "Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder in Menopausal Women: A Survey of Western European Women," involved 1685 women aged 20 –70 years, living in France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Women who completed the "Profile of Female Sexual Function" questionnaire were classified as having low sexual desire using clinically derived cut-off scores for the desire domain. Women were then further subclassified as distressed or non-distressed, by completing the "Personal Distress Scale". Other outcome scales included a sexual activities scale.

In this landmark research, the authors found that surgically menopausal women were significantly more likely to have low sexual interest than pre-menopausal or naturally menopausal women, and more likely to have the condition Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. Sexual desire scores and sexual arousal, orgasm and sexual pleasure were highly correlated demonstrating that low sexual desire is frequently associated with decreased functioning in other aspects of sexual response, referred to as "sexual comorbidity". Women with low sexual desire were significantly less likely to engage in sexual activity and significantly more likely to be dissatisfied with their sex life and partner relationship than women with normal desire.

"This extensive, well-conducted study shows that women who undergo hysterectomy with removal of both ovaries are more likely to have low sexual desire and also more likely to be distressed about this," noted Dr. Lorraine Dennerstein, lead author of the study and Director of the Office for Gender and Health in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne, Australia. "There is marked variation in prevalence of this type of surgery (hysterectomy and oophorectomy) throughout the world. The USA has a higher prevalence than, for example, France. Doctors and patients need to be aware that there may be detrimental effects on sexual function as a result of the surgery. The findings suggest hormonal causation for the lowered sexual desire."

Dr. Alessandra Graziottin, co-author of the research and Director of the Center of Gynecology and Medical Sexology in the Hospital San Raffaele Resnati, in Milan, Italy stated that "premature menopause is still neglected and many women undergo years of general health and sexual related problems because of this. In case of premature menopause, hormone treatment should be considered. Physicians should consider a more conservative treatment as it concerns the important role of ovaries - prophylactic ovariectomy to prevent ovarian cancer is the only case in medicine of removal of a healthy organ to prevent cancer".

"There are additional important take home messages in this paper," said Dr. Irwin Goldstein, Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine. "This is the first study to use validated measures of sexual functioning and with embedded control populations, an example of the elevated level of science being performed in contemporary sexual medicine research. The second message is that while this investigation focused on sexual interest, there was significant correlation of low desire with low arousal, decreased pleasure, or orgasmic difficulties which can lead to dissatisfaction with sex life and the partner relationship."

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This study was funded by Procter and Gamble Pharmaceuticals and the manuscript is published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Drs. Dennerstein, Graziottin and Goldstein are available for questions and interviews. To arrange for a telephone interview, or if you are a member of the media and would like a PDF of the full article, please contact medicalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net or 781-388-8507.

About the Journal
The Journal of Sexual Medicine publishes multidisciplinary basic science and clinical research to define and understand the scientific basis of male and female sexual function and dysfunction. As the official journal of the International Society for Sexual Medicine, it provides healthcare professionals in sexual medicine with essential educational content and promotes the exchange of scientific information generated from basic science and clinical research.

About The International Society for Sexual Medicine
The International Society for Sexual Medicine (ISSM) was founded in 1982 for the purpose of promoting, throughout the international scientific community, research and knowledge in sexual medicine, considered as the subspeciality area of medicine that embraces the study, diagnosis and treatment of the sexual health concerns of men and women. The society has over 3000 members worldwide, with five regional societies that are affiliated with ISSM: the Africa Gulf Society for Sexual Medicine, Asia Pacific Society for Sexual Medicine, European Society for Sexual Medicine, Latin American Society for Sexual Medicine, and Sexual Medicine Society of North America.

About Blackwell Publishing
Blackwell Publishing is the world's leading society publisher, partnering with more than 665 academic, medical, and professional societies. Blackwell publishes over 800 journals and, to date, has published close to 6,000 text and reference books, across a wide range of academic, medical, and professional subjects.


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