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BACKGROUND: The perimenopausal and postmenopausal periods are associated with many symptoms, including sexual complaints. This review is an update of a review first published in 2013.
OBJECTIVES: We aimed to assess the effect of hormone therapy on sexual function in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women.
SEARCH METHODS: On 19 December 2022 we searched the Gynaecology and Fertility Group Specialised Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, CINAHL, LILACS, ISI Web of Science, two trials registries, and OpenGrey, together with reference checking and contact with experts in the field for any additional studies.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We included randomized controlled trials that compared hormone therapy to either placebo or no intervention (control) using any validated assessment tool to evaluate sexual function. We considered hormone therapy: estrogen alone; estrogen in combination with progestogens; synthetic steroids, for example, tibolone; selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), for example, raloxifene, bazedoxifene; and SERMs in combination with estrogen.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We used standard methodological procedures recommended by Cochrane. We analyzed data using mean differences (MDs) and standardized mean differences (SMDs). The primary outcome was the sexual function score. Secondary outcomes were the domains of sexual response: desire; arousal; lubrication; orgasm; satisfaction; and pain. We assessed the certainty of the evidence using the GRADE approach.
MAIN RESULTS: We included 36 studies (23,299 women; 12,225 intervention group; 11,074 control group), of which 35 evaluated postmenopausal women; only one study evaluated perimenopausal women. The 'symptomatic or early postmenopausal women' subgroup included 10 studies, which included women experiencing menopausal symptoms (symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disturbance, vaginal atrophy, and dyspareunia) or early postmenopausal women (within five years after menopause). The 'unselected postmenopausal women' subgroup included 26 studies, which included women regardless of menopausal symptoms and women whose last menstrual period was more than five years earlier. No study included only women with sexual dysfunction and only seven studies evaluated sexual function as a primary outcome. We deemed 20 studies at high risk of bias, two studies at low risk, and the other 14 studies at unclear risk of bias. Nineteen studies received commercial funding. Estrogen alone versus control probably slightly improves the sexual function composite score in symptomatic or early postmenopausal women (SMD 0.50, 95% confidence interval (CI) (0.04 to 0.96; I² = 88%; 3 studies, 699 women; moderate-quality evidence), and probably makes little or no difference to the sexual function composite score in unselected postmenopausal women (SMD 0.64, 95% CI -0.12 to 1.41; I² = 94%; 6 studies, 608 women; moderate-quality evidence). The pooled result suggests that estrogen alone versus placebo or no intervention probably slightly improves sexual function composite score (SMD 0.60, 95% CI 0.16 to 1.04; I² = 92%; 9 studies, 1307 women, moderate-quality evidence). We are uncertain of the effect of estrogen combined with progestogens versus placebo or no intervention on the sexual function composite score in unselected postmenopausal women (MD 0.08 95% CI -1.52 to 1.68; 1 study, 104 women; very low-quality evidence). We are uncertain of the effect of synthetic steroids versus control on the sexual function composite score in symptomatic or early postmenopausal women (SMD 1.32, 95% CI 1.18 to 1.47; 1 study, 883 women; very low-quality evidence) and of their effect in unselected postmenopausal women (SMD 0.46, 95% CI 0.07 to 0.85; 1 study, 105 women; very low-quality evidence). We are uncertain of the effect of SERMs versus control on the sexual function composite score in symptomatic or early postmenopausal women (MD -1.00, 95% CI -2.00 to -0.00; 1 study, 215 women; very low-quality evidence) and of their effect in unselected postmenopausal women (MD 2.24, 95% 1.37 to 3.11 2 studies, 1525 women, I² = 1%, low-quality evidence). We are uncertain of the effect of SERMs combined with estrogen versus control on the sexual function composite score in symptomatic or early postmenopausal women (SMD 0.22, 95% CI 0.00 to 0.43; 1 study, 542 women; very low-quality evidence) and of their effect in unselected postmenopausal women (SMD 2.79, 95% CI 2.41 to 3.18; 1 study, 272 women; very low-quality evidence). The observed heterogeneity in many analyses may be caused by variations in the interventions and doses used, and by different tools used for assessment.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Hormone therapy treatment with estrogen alone probably slightly improves the sexual function composite score in women with menopausal symptoms or in early postmenopause (within five years of amenorrhoea), and in unselected postmenopausal women, especially in the lubrication, pain, and satisfaction domains. We are uncertain whether estrogen combined with progestogens improves the sexual function composite score in unselected postmenopausal women. Evidence regarding other hormone therapies (synthetic steroids and SERMs) is of very low quality and we are uncertain of their effect on sexual function. The current evidence does not suggest the beneficial effects of synthetic steroids (for example tibolone) or SERMs alone or combined with estrogen on sexual function. More studies that evaluate the effect of estrogen combined with progestogens, synthetic steroids, SERMs, and SERMs combined with estrogen would improve the quality of the evidence for the effect of these treatments on sexual function in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women.
|Family Medicine (FM)/General Practice (GP)|
|General Internal Medicine-Primary Care(US)|
More studies are needed.
This is a difficult symptom to measure and study. Not surprising the data are inconclusive.
This study is useful. Menopause incorporates changes related to aging, hormonal decline, and altered social roles. Many symptoms such as mood change, night sweats, hot flashes, sleep problems, urogenital atrophic changes, and loss of libido can be dealt with by using the most appropriate HT. HT might improve symptoms affecting sexual function such as dryness, itching, and painful intercourse by increasing lubrication, blood flow, and sensation in vaginal tissues. Testosterone replacement therapy is controversial, although studies confirmed a benefit for some women with low sexual desire (HSDD). This review pointed that HT with estrogen alone, or combined with progestogens, or with SERMs slightly improves the sexual function in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. Further studies are needed to evaluate using intravaginal testosterone alone or with vaginal estrogen, as well as using intravaginal DHEA for treating vulvovaginal atrophy.