My Sexual Libido Was Tested for Science

Reported by Faye Brennan

On August 18, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Addyi (flibanserin), a.k.a. "Viagra for women." The drug was created to help treat hypoactive sexual disorder (HSDD), low sexual desire in women that causes physical and emotional stress. Here, Cara (not her real name) shares her story as a volunteer guinea pig for flibanserin, the drug that tinkers with chemicals in the brain that impact desire.

I Just Wasn't in the Mood for Sex After Having My First Kid
I’ve always been attracted to my husband. In fact, I slept with him three weeks after we started dating when I was in college, and I was always the aggressor in our relationship. Even days before giving birth to our son at age 30, I wanted sex. After I had a kid, things changed almost immediately. My doctor told me I shouldn't worry and that my sex drive would come back eventually. But I would go through the whole routine, and I just couldn't get aroused. 

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I Experimented in So Many Different Ways to Get Things Back on Track
I tried testosterone cream, different birth control pills, supplements, a sex therapist—nothing helped. It got to the point where my husband and I couldn’t talk about it anymore because we were so emotionally separated from each other. When we were lying in bed, I could feel his pain, that he felt sad and unloved. And he was making me feel guilty for not wanting sex. Then we saw an ad about a trial for flibanserin. They were looking for women who had normal marriages—no major issues, just like us. I was accepted and sent home with flibanserin.

"I would go through the whole routine, and I just couldn't get aroused."

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I Didn't Realize How Much Personal Info I'd Have to Divulge To Be Part of a Clinical Trial
The questions I had to initially answer made me super uncomfortable. I’m from a Catholic family, and good Catholic girls just have sex in missionary position, have babies, and cook—so to be explicit about my sexual history and my issues was embarrassing and almost shameful. I also had a bunch of medical tests before I started taking the drug, and I checked in regularly with a nurse practitioner who was keeping tabs on how things were going.

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"Female Viagra" Made My Sex Life So. Much. Better.
I started to take the pill daily right before bed. At first, I didn’t notice much change. It’s not like Viagra, where you take one and you’re in the mood right away. After about a month, we had sex twice in one week. Within a couple months, we were having it on a more regular basis. 

I actually started to think about sex. When my husband initiated things or even held me, instead of just being held, I was thinking, "That feels nice." It’s not like when I was 16 years old and staring at a hot guy in English class. I just felt more willing to have sex. Physically, I was a lot wetter. It’s amazing to think I finally had my libido back.

There were side effects, though. I took it at night because it can make you feel really woozy or tired.  When the trial ended after a year and a half and I could no longer take flibanserin, I wasn’t concerned. But after two months, the sex (and my thoughts about it) dried up.

"My husband was making me feel guilty for not wanting sex."

I got mad at myself, like, "What’s wrong with me?" The doctors gave me an antidepressant, but it just numbs me. If the pill gets approved, I’ll be the first in line for it. [Editor’s note: This interview was conducted before the FDA approval on August 18.] My husband said he felt like I was the woman he married again. I wasn't a horny mom running around trying to have sex with everyone—it just made me feel more open to doing the deed and more like myself again.

For more on how to boost your libido, check out the October issue of Women’s Health, on newsstands now.

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