Sexual Health Q&A

Can weight-loss surgery also improve patients’ sex lives?

For some patients, it might. Research suggests that bariatric surgery can benefit sexual function in both men and women. These improvements may be long-lasting, too.

Obesity can be linked to a number of medical problems that can affect sexual health, such as diabetes, heart disease, and sleep apnea. Many obese men have low testosterone or erectile dysfunction. Women may have poor vaginal lubrication, which can make intercourse uncomfortable. Depression related to obesity can also take its toll on one’s sex life. Often, people lose interest in sex.

Bariatric surgery, a weight-loss procedure, restricts the amount of food a person can take in. Some types of bariatric surgery change how food is absorbed, too. In some cases, part of the stomach is removed.

American researchers studied the effects of bariatric surgery on patients’ sex lives. In 2015, they presented their findings at the annual ObesityWeek conference, co-hosted by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and The Obesity Society.

Over 2,000 people, mostly women, participated in the study. They filled out questionnaires about their sex lives one month before having bariatric surgery and again once a year for the next five years.

After one year, many patients were having sex more often than before their surgery. They felt more sexual desire, were more sexually satisfied, and had fewer limitations to sexual activity. These improvements continued to the five-year mark.

For example, before surgery, only 31% of women and 28% of men said they were moderately-to-very satisfied with their sexual function. After five years, 52% of the women and 58% of the men were in this category.

Many felt less depressed after surgery, which may have helped.

Bariatric surgery is a big commitment and involves more than the operation itself. Patients still need to eat healthy foods and get regular exercise to meet and maintain their weight-loss goals.