Female sexual dysfunction (FSD) describes persistent, recurrent problems with sexual response, desire or pain, often causing strain in a relationship. It results from a complex interplay of physiological, psychological and social factors. The prevalence of FSD varies from 40%-60%, depending on the criteria used for its diagnosis.
Previous research found that vitamin D deficiency delayed vaginal opening and the onset of puberty in mice. Furthermore, vitamin D receptors are present in the reproductive tissues, including the ovaries and uterus. This knowledge led researchers to investigate the relationship between vitamin D and FSD.
A total of 50 women with FSD and 58 healthy women, all between the ages of 22 and 51 years, were included in the study. The researchers used the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) questionnaire to diagnose FSD. The FSFI assesses desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and pain. Since depression increases one’s risk of sexual dysfunction, the researchers evaluated the presence of depression with the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI).
The researchers discovered that women with FSD had shockingly low average vitamin D levels of 6.36 ng/ml. Remember, the Vitamin D Council defines vitamin D sufficiency as a vitamin D status between 40-80 ng/ml. The women with FSD had significantly lower vitamin D levels than controls, who had an average vitamin D status of 10.52 ng/ml (p = 0.0001). In fact, all aspects of the FSFI (desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and pain) were significantly associated with vitamin D deficiency (p < 0.01). Furthermore, depression was significantly associated with FSD.
The researchers concluded,
“The main finding of this study is that deficiency of vitamin D3 may impair the sexual functions in women of reproductive age.”
As with almost every study, there are a few limitations to note. First, the study included volunteers, which incorporates selection bias into the results. Second, the study consisted of a relatively small study population, which limits the study’s generalizability. Finally, all women involved in the study were pre-menopausal, meaning that the results may not be replicable in a post-menopausal population.
Tovey, A & Cannell, JJ. Research discovers female sexual dysfunction is associated with vitamin D deficiency. The Vitamin D Council Blog & Newsletter, 2016.