Bariatric Surgery and Sexual Satisfaction
It might have been mentioned before that bariatric surgery does a lot for your hormones, and ultimately alters body chemistry. It also might have been mentioned before that loss of excess body weight can also increase your fertility as a whole. However, did you know that once you get past the point of recovery, bariatric surgery can increase your sex drive? This was certainly news to the scientific community as they were gathering post-op information about the subject. However, this does beg a few questions. How much of it has do do with biology, and how much of it was a psychological thing? Did it have to do with physical function or confidence? And, what does that spell out for those who have thought about or already undergone bariatric surgery very recently?
The study was led by Kristine Steffen, A Professor of the School of Pharmacy at North Dakota State University. The multi center study included more than 2,000 men and women who had problems with sexual functioning before surgery. After a consistent follow up for patients within the span of 5 years, researchers found that more than half reported improvements in their sex lives within a year of the surgery.
“Satisfaction with sexual life is improved by one year after bariatric surgery, and this improvement is maintained in both men and women by five years post-surgery,” stated the lead researcher in an interview with Reuter’s.com, a website that covered the topic on the issue.
The data pool consisted of 1,607 women and 429 men, who willingly participated in an interview questionnaire format. Before their surgery, they were asked about their own sexual desire and satisfaction in their lives. 69% of the women in the study and 75% of the men were not satisfied with their sex lives according to their own testimony during the pre-surgical interview. A year later, after the surgery, 56% percent of women and 49.2% percent of men were still dissatisfied. The numbers continued to drop. Five years later, the women started seeing a drastic improvement as well. The final results were that 75% of the women and more than 66% of the men continued to report improvement in their sex lives at year five.
This is certainly good news for a lot of patients that suffered from previous barriers to their own chance at pleasure or sexual satisfaction. But what changed? Why was there no desire to begin with? Was it a confidence issue or a biological one? It could be a combination of all three.
Weight is not easy to navigate on Earth. Whether you are in Huntsville, Alabama, Rio, Brazil or Beijing, China the rules for gravity are all the same. Gravitational pull combines with the presence of mass which makes a resistance in movement. The more mass something has, the greater force it takes to move that mass. This is a simple physics. Obesity is a disease that includes the addition of excess matter in the form of fat cells. The heavier a person is, the more physical force is needed for movement. That is why when someone is skinnier, they can move faster. They just have less mass.
So, where does sexual satisfaction come in? Sex is a physical activity. Sex requires multiple willing partners in a consensual physical act. And if a partner requires foreplay, or if the two of you are trying something experimental, it requires longer stretches of physical activity at a time.
If someone is morbidly obese, a simple activity like walking is comparable to running a marathon. So, sex is a difficult if not outright frustrating challenge for an obese person. It is a non rewarding experience to go through that much effort. It makes sense that the idea of sex would be discouraging obese people from wanting to participate if it is exhausting and rigorous to them. Not like they feel particularly motivated to do so anyway.
It might have been mentioned in a past blog that there was a spike in pregnancy rates after weight loss surgery. In fact, all across the board, the fertility of post op gastric bypass surgery patients seemed to improve. This, combined with the increase of a sex drive is no coincidence. Because hormones are linked to both fertility and sex drive. The lack of fertility in women(who make up the highest demographic in gastric bypass patients) is usually credited to Polycystic Ovary Synrome PCOS. The condition in characterized by a hormonal imbalance that in turn creates the presence of cysts in the ovaries. These cysts often times prevents certain sex drive and pregnancy hormones from working the way they should. PCOS affects 1 in 10 American women.
Fat cells don’t just store energy from nutrition. They indiscriminately store things like toxins/waste, vitamins, and hormones. Excess fat cells leads to the unnecessary absorption of hormones, which are needed for both fertility and sex drive purposes. When the cells shrink from weight loss, the chances of fertility spike drastically. The presence of those hormones also increases your sex drive. Human instinct often dictates that we are supposed to reproduce. So, our hormones help us reach that end goal as a species.
But what about the emotional factor? After all hormones dictate a lot about our biology. But, are there any emotional roadblocks that morbidly obese people suffer from that prevent them from enjoying sex?
The Emotional Toll
Sex is an intimate activity. Even if it is a quickie with a stranger, there is still a level of trust and vulnerability to the act. You are presenting the most vulnerable parts of your self to your partner, both physically and psychologically. That vulnerability, when presented to the wrong person can leave you raw and exposed. All it takes is a hypercritical appraisal of your appearance by a potential partner. They can break the trust of a vulnerable person. And it will hurt badly.
Society attaches nasty stigmas to morbidly obese people. That they are always messy, disgusting, slow, lazy, ugly, and have no self control. Combine that with a vulnerable moment and you easily have a recipe for depression. Not only are they unmotivated by a lack of sex drive, but a lot of them might just feel ashamed. Body image, is often the driving factor to either boost confidence or to tear it down from its foundations. There is a good chance that obese people won’t feel confident to engage in sexual intercourse. Especially if the group of people are suffering from depression.
So it makes sense that after the weight loss there would be a sudden boost to self esteem. People feel comfortable with others once they feel comfortable themselves. So, their new whole self esteem will make them more likely to engage with another in a sexual act. Nothing is more sexy than a confident person, after all.