Women Report Better Sexual Health after Weight-Loss Surgery, Researchers Find

Researchers measuring the changes in sexual function and sex hormone levels in women following bariatric surgery have found that, on average, women reported significant improvements in overall sexual functioning and satisfaction.

The findings are published online in the Nov. 4 issue of JAMA Surgery and will be presented on Nov. 14 at Obesity Week in Atlanta.

“Thirteen percent of the participants who reported sexual dysfunction before undergoing weight loss surgery saw dramatic improvement in function after surgery,” said Nicholas Christian, Ph.D., a biostatistician, Department of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, who analyzed the data for the study. “Another 53 percent saw a modest improvement, on average.”

The study used data collected from the Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (LABS) consortium, which has its data coordinating center at Pitt Public Health, and 10 hospitals with a large clinical center at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. In particular, a subset of the data looks at the long-term effects of bariatric surgery on the weight of study participants, as well as on their physical and mental health.

Researchers recruited 106 of the women who were part of the larger LABS-2 study at the clinical sites in Pittsburgh and Fargo, N.D., to participate in this additional ancillary study. In addition to the LABS forms assessing quality of life and depression, the women answered questions focusing on their perception of their body image and their sexual health, and gave blood samples.

Sexual function significantly improved from before surgery to the first year post surgery. By the second year, women reported improvements in arousal, lubrication, desires and satisfaction. They also had significant improvements in sex hormone levels.

In addition to improved sexual function, the women reported significant improvements in quality of life, as well as body image and depression symptoms.

“Our results explore other important aspects of health and suggest that improvements in sexual functioning in women can be added to the long list of benefits seen in the first several years after bariatric surgery,” sai​d co-author Anita Courcoulas, M.D., M.P.H., a bariatric and general surgeon at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

The study’s lead author is David Sarwer, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania. Additional authors include Jacqueline C. Spitzer, M.S.Ed., and Thomas A. Wadden, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania; James E. Mitchell, M.D., and Kathryn Lancaster, B.A., both of the University of North Dakota; William Gourash, M.S.N., C.R.N.P., of UPMC; and Raymond C. Rosen, Ph.D., of the New England Research Institutes.

The ancillary study to the LABS-2 was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases grant RO1DKO72452.


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