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Hypnosis May Improve Sexual Health in Postmenopausal Women

Update Date: Aug 16, 2013 12:45 PM EDT
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Hypnosis may help improve sexual health in postmenopausal women who have hot flashes, a new study suggests.

Researchers said the latest finding suggest that hypnotic relaxation therapy could serve as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy, which can increase the risk of cancer and heart disease.

They examined the sexual comfort, sexual satisfaction and sexual pleasure in postmenopausal women who were randomly assigned to receive either five weekly sessions of hypnotic relaxation therapy or supportive counseling.

Participants in the hypnotic relaxation therapy group received a hypnotic induction followed by suggestions for relaxation, coolness and mental imagery. Participants in the supportive counseling group discussed their symptoms with a trained therapist but did not receive any hypnosis.

The study involved 187 female participants. The women complete questionnaires at the beginning of the study, at the end of treatment and at a 12-week follow-up. Participants also completed a self-report questionnaire assessing the extent to which hot flashes interfered with sexual intimacy.

Researchers explain that the decrease in estrogen that accompanies menopause is associated with hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain and vaginal dryness, discomfort or pain.

"The most common complaints are being too tired, anxiety, depression, hot flashes and the fear of close contact," researcher Gary Elkins, Ph.D., director of Baylor's Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory and a professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences, said in a statement. He added that some women might grow to fear intimacy because the warmth that comes from closeness can sometimes trigger hot flashes.

The findings revealed that women who received hypnotic relaxation therapy reported significantly higher sexual satisfaction and pleasure, as well as less discomfort. Researchers noted that this improvement was also seen at the 12-week follow-up assessment.

"Women's sexual health improved, whether because of sleeping better, less stress or fewer hot flashes, or perhaps other unknown mechanisms," Elkins said.

The findings were presented at the American Psychological Association's recent annual meeting.

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