A significant problem for women with depression is a loss of libido, or sex drive. But a major side effect of most antidepressants is also a loss of libido. So you are damn if you do, damn if you don’t. About 30% to 70% of men and women treated with antidepressants suffer some degree of sexual dysfunction.
Here’s the problem. The use of antidepressants is widely prevalent. There are a lot of women on antidepressants. Antidepressants are also prescribed for other medical conditions like anxiety and pain control.
Antidepressants are generally prescribed for long periods of times. About 16% of women over age 18 are prescribed antidepressants – including 12% of women between ages 18 and 44 and 22% of women between the ages of 45 and 64.
Exercise, Antidepressants and Libido
Now here is some good news for women taking antidepressants. A study recently published in Journal of Depression and Anxiety showed that exercise 30 minutes before sexual intercourse reduced the libido limiting effects of antidepressants as well as increased sexual function. But, it was noted that regular exercise anytime of the day also improved sexual function, but not as much as exercise 30 minutes before sexual activity.
So exercise is an effective, inexpensive, and readily accessible treatment for sexual dysfunction related to antidepressant use. Some studies show regular exercise to be just as an effective treatment for depression as antidepressants. So if you suffer from depression and do not exercise regularly you may wish to try that first before starting medication.
Other Options for Antidepressant Sexual Dysfunction
Other options for minimizing the sexual side effects of antidepressants include switching to Wellbutrin, an antidepressant with few sexual side effects, adding Viagra which has been shown to be effective in women on antidepressants, decreasing your dose of antidepressant to the lowest effective dose possible, dividing the dose throughout the day, take the antidepressant after sex, and skip taking the antidepressant day or two periodically which has been shown to reduce the incidence of sexual dysfunction without adversely affecting the treatment of the depression.