Women who experience low sexual desire, who talked with a health care provider about their low arousal and took a placebo, saw an improvement in their symptoms, according to a small new study.
The results, the researchers said, show that talking about sexual difficulties contributed to the improvement, and small steps that don't involve medication might help women with low sexual desire, the most common female sexual complaint.
"Our study shows that even a limited intervention can have a positive effect in many women with sexual dysfunction," said study author Andrea Bradford, a psychologist at Baylor College of Medicine. "This comes as no surprise to sex therapists, but it does suggest a need to investigate behavioral factors more closely in clinical trials."
The researchers analyzed the behaviors and symptoms of 50 women who were randomly chosen to receive a placebo in a large clinical trial of a drug treatment for low sexual arousal. Neither the women nor the study doctors knew whether they were taking the real drug or placebo.
After 12 weeks of treatment, symptoms in about one in three of these women experienced meaningful improvement. Most of that improvement seemed to happen during the first four weeks, the researchers said.
The most important predictor of symptom change was an increase in the frequency of satisfying sexual encounters during the treatment. Many women even reported they received more stimulation during sexual activity while they participated in the trial, even though their partners were not given any special instructions.
The study will be published online inthe Journal of Sexual Medicine.
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