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Doctors urged to link weight and sexual health

Wednesday June 16th, 2010

Obesity has wide-ranging effects on sexual health, researchers say today.

The problem affects people physically - but also affects their ability to form relationships, according to the new study.

And it seems to increase the risk of women have unplanned pregnancies - possibly because of problems of self-esteem, researchers say.

Professor Nathalie Bajos of the Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale in Paris, France, and colleagues looked at the association between body mass index and sexual activity, sexual satisfaction, unintended pregnancy, and abortion.

They surveyed a random sample of 5,535 women and 4,635 men living in France in 2006. Around seven per cent were obese.

Obese women were less likely to have had a sexual partner in the past year than others, and obese men were less likely to have had more than one sexual partner in the past year. They were also significantly more likely to report erectile dysfunction.

Obese women below the age of 30 were less likely to approach healthcare services for contraception or to take oral contraceptives, and were more likely to report an unintended pregnancy. Full results appear on the website of the British Medical Journal.

The researchers conclude: "There is a link between body mass index and sexual behaviour and adverse sexual health outcomes. The scale of the problem and the magnitude of the effects, particularly the four-fold increase in risk of unintended pregnancy among obese women, warrants focused attention.

"Prevention of unintended pregnancies among these women is a major reproductive health challenge. Healthcare professionals need to be aware of sensitivities related to weight and gender in the provision of sexual health services."

Dr Sandy Goldbeck-Wood of Camden and Islington Mental Health Trust, UK, writes in an editorial that: "Clinicians must be prepared to discuss sex and weight with patients."

She believes: "We need to understand more about how obese people feel about their sex lives, and what drives the observed behaviours and attitudes."

Bajos, N. et al. Sexuality and obesity, a gender perspective: results from French national random probability survey of sexual behaviours. The British Medical Journal, 2010;340:c2573.

Goldbeck-Wood, S. Obesity and poor sexual health outcomes. The British Medical Journal, 2010;340:c2826

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | Diet & Food | Europe | Fitness | Menís Health | UK News | Womenís Health & Gynaecology

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