Review on October 18, 2008
Sexual dysfunction affects a higher percentage of women than men, with loss of libido being one of the most commonly reported disturbances. Particularly as women approach menopausal age, fluctuations in hormones, including both estrogen and testosterone, have been shown in studies to lead to a decrease in sexual desire and drive.
Women undergoing hysterectomies are often concerned about the effects that this will have on loss of libido, due to the changes in hormonal levels that occur as a result of this. In fact, several studies have shown that sexual function is the number one concern of women in the preoperative stage of hysterectomy. However, in a recent study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the incidence of loss of libido was actually shown to decrease in women post-hysterectomy.
Entitled the Maryland Women's Health Study, this was undertaken over a period of two years, in a sample of 1299 women, 84.8% of which completed the study. In addition to loss of libido, the frequency of sexual relations, vaginal dryness, and orgasm were also measured.
In the case of loss of libido, the women were questioned prior to surgery, as well as at the points of 6 months, 12, 18, and 24 months post hysterectomy. The questionnaire asked how often they "desired sex," with "every day," "5-6 days per week," "3-4 days per week," "1-2 days per week," "2-3 days per month," "1 day per month," "less than 1 day per month," or "not at all" being the choices for response.
Women who marked their response as desiring sex less than 1 day per month were categorized as having a "low libido." The study showed that more than 70% of these women experiencing a loss of libido found their symptom relieved after a period of 12 months. In addition, there was a significant increase in the percentage of women experiencing a desire for sexual relations more than once a week, and there was a very slight percentage of women who had not experienced a loss of libido pre-hysterectomy developing this symptom post-hysterectomy.
The implication of the Maryland study is certainly not that women with healthy gynecological function should turn to hysterectomy as a means for alleviating loss of libido; rather that in the case of those women who are in need of hysterectomy, there may not need be as great of a concern as prior studies have shown in regards to the possibility of loss of libido. In fact, sexual function may be increased.
- Julia C. Rhodes, MS; Kristen H. Kjerulff, PhD; Patricia W. Langenberg, PhD; Gay M. Guzinski, MD. Hysterectomy and Sexual Functioning. JAMA. 1999;282:1934-1941.