Family life Would you take a pill to improve your sex drive? Many women blame their low sex drive on parenthood, marriage or the demands of being busy working moms. But what if there were an easy pharmaceutical solution for your bedroom woes? By Emma Waverman Apr 10, Illustration: Cross, a mother of two, knows exactly what this signals—and she dreads it.
Usually, I just think it to myself. But he knew what that meant and rolled over. She knows her low sex drive is putting a strain on their year relationship.
For some women the dry spell is short—ending when they emerge from the fog of new motherhood. But for others, low sexual desire haunts their relationships. This has garnered cries of sexism from doctors like Brotto. However, the landscape is changing, and a female version of Viagra could reach consumers within the next two years. The race to market Several different companies are vying to bring their own female-sexual-desire drug to market first.
Canadian company Trimel Pharmaceuticals is seeking regulatory approval in the US, Canada and Australia for Tefina, a testosterone-containing nose spray that could hit shelves by But Lybrido, a pill women would take three to six hours before having sex, is the current front-runner.
The drug has been green-lit for phase-three trials in the US and Europe the last round of regulatory testing before a drug can be sold , and is projected to hit the American market in , pending FDA approval. Though there is no set timeline for a Canadian release, Health Canada usually trails FDA decisions by three months, on average.
Like Viagra, Lybrido contains sildenafil, the same active ingredient that increases blood flow to the genitals. Increased blood flow gives men an erection, and will increase sensation and vaginal lubrication for women. The drug is designed to work on both the body and the brain to arouse dormant desire. Women may not interpret or notice their own physical signs of readiness as a reason to get busy.
Your body and mind have to work together to get the process started, and some doctors, including Pfaus, say that a dose of extra testosterone may be the nudge some women need. Women naturally produce small quantities of testosterone, released by the adrenal glands and ovaries. Emotional Brain is also developing a sister pill to Lybrido called Lybridos, which contains buspirone, an anti-anxiety drug. The buspirone is intended to lower inhibition—the feeling that puts the brakes on sex or distracts from desire—by causing the short-term suppression of seratonin levels.
Brotto helped develop the new criteria for defining SIAD formerly called HSDD, or hypoactive sexual desire disorder in the DSM-5, the latest edition of the medical reference book, and says that clinicians will first ask women whether their lack of lust is affecting their lives negatively. There are six other criteria see sidebar below , and three are required for diagnosis. For a clinical diagnosis of sexual interest arousal disorder SIAD , women must meet three of the following criteria for at least six months: The after-work rush of daycare, dance, soccer, dinner, homework and bedtime can be downright draining for those of us who barely have time to take off our coats, let alone pull out the lacy lingerie.
Often, says Brotto, the role of lover falls to the bottom of the list. When Cross gets home from her job running a media company, she just wants to be left alone. Once the kids were in bed I just wanted my own space without little hands all over me. Sometimes talking or arguing about not having sex takes up the same amount of time as actually doing it, she says.
And it adds to the feeling of never having time. She has significant concerns about the long-term safety of taking any amount of testosterone, and says she would be hesitant to prescribe Lybrido until more extended studies have been conducted.
She waits to prescribe any medication until large-scale randomized trials have proved that it works, without side effects. There are so many factors involved: Hormonal birth control including traditional oral contraceptives can hamper desire for some women, as can antidepressants.
Some studies have linked oral contraceptives to decreased levels of androgens, the group of hormones that includes testosterone. For women who are breastfeeding, sex can become uncomfortable due to lowered estrogen levels, which can cause vaginal dryness. Like Gunter, Lori Brotto, the Vancouver psychologist, has her doubts. But women need to address their different issues and have discussions about their expectations and their needs.
Lybrido and Lybridos may only help the small subset of women who cannot become physically aroused, she says. While she loves her husband, she describes their sex life, after 12 years together, as dismal. The resentment toward me for not meeting his needs is a gigantic problem in our marriage. All relationships—especially long-term ones—go through highs and lows when it comes to passion.
Remember that intimacy can come in all forms, and simple or even sappy displays of affection, such as holding hands or stealing a quick kiss, can help partners who are having sexual issues.
Hold hands and cuddle on the couch watching TV. If even this kind of affection feels like work, then it may be time to seek professional help. Aside from pharmaceuticals like Lybrido and Viagra, treatment options for couples with sex-drive discrepancies include mindful meditation, cognitive-behavioural therapy and traditional sex therapy.
All forms of counselling should help couples open up, says Brotto. Can sex classes help your marriage? In fact, once the medication starts to work, he says, and women find that sex can be an exciting and satisfying part of their lives again—they may no longer need a medication to get them in the mood.
Gunter agrees that breaking the pattern is key. But is it OK to pop a pill to trump a situational problem?