Vibrators may be beneficial for women’s health, according to a study which poses the question of whether it is time for physicians to start prescribing the devices as treatments.
The stigma associated with the use of vibrators and other sex toys is beginning to fade, although for many people they still remain taboo.
But research has revealed that their use could provide a variety of potential health benefits.
In the study, lead author Dr. Alexandra Dubinskaya from Cedar-Sinai Medical Center and colleagues reviewed the current literature on this topic. The results of this investigation were presented Friday at the American Urological Association’s 2022 Annual Meeting in New Orleans.
Stock image showing a vibrator. Vibrators may be beneficial for women’s health, according to a study that reviewed several scientific papers. IStock
“As a urogynecologist I spend my time discussing with women their genital and sexual health,” Dubinskaya told Newsweek. “It is often shared that no medical professional ever spoke to them about their sex life, nor their solo sexual experiences.”
“There is a stigma associated with masturbation and vibrators. At the same time, the concept of ‘if you don’t use it you lose it’ is well understood and applied to other parts of the body,” she said. “However, this concept has not been applied to the pelvic floor, genitourinary, or sexual health. I wanted to learn more information on this topic, thus created the literature review.”
In the review, the aim of the researchers was to analyze the effect of vibrator use on sexual function, pelvic floor dysfunction and vulvar pain.
To do this, Dubinskaya and colleagues performed a systematic review of several medical databases, searching for studies on this topic that included certain keywords, such as “vibrator” or “sex toy.”
In total, the researchers identified 558 articles containing relevant keywords and then whittled this number down to 21 papers that met all of their criteria for the issues they wanted to study.
While the number of studies on vibrator use and its effect on pelvic floor health, sexual function and vulvar pain were relatively limited, according to Dubinskaya, the few that were available showed an “overall positive attitude” towards vibrator use among women and an acceptance of receiving vibrators from medical providers.
Furthermore, the studies showed that vibrator use had a “positive effect” in several areas of women’s health, including improvements in urinary incontinence and pelvic floor muscle strength, as well as easing vulvar pain.
“I was glad to find that there are studies on this topic,” Dubinskaya said. “I am not surprised by the findings. It is my belief that there are many other benefits of vibrator use which we are probably unfamiliar with yet.”
Based on the findings of her research, Dubinskaya said vibrator use has a positive effect in all areas of the sexual response cycle.
“Vibrators decrease the time to achieve orgasm, facilitate multiple orgasms and improve sex-related distress,”she said. “We know, from female sexual medicine, positive sexual experiences encourage women to engage in sexual encounters in the future. It can be derived that vibrators may improve a woman’s sexual desire by making sexual pleasure easily achievable in solo and/or in a partnered sexual relationship.”
Despite the existence of the scientific articles assessed in the review, Dubinskaya said vibrators are not well-studied, and their benefits or potential drawbacks have not been comprehensively assessed (although there have not been any serious complications reported with their use.)
In addition, there is a lack of research on whether different types of vibrators produce different health effects.
“Different vibrators have different characteristics: type, speed, and intensity of vibration. They also vary in the route of application: vaginal vs external,” Dubinskaya said. “As more studies are conducted, the specific benefit of different design characteristics would be [better] understood.”
The scientists are now calling for further research and more detailed studies to better understand their effects on sexual health.
In fact, the researchers suggest that given the potential health benefits of vibrators, they could one day be recommend to women by medical professionals for the treatment of certain conditions, such as pelvic floor disorder—which occurs when the muscles or connective tissues of the pelvic area weaken or are injured.
“Medical providers, especially gynecology, urology, and female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, need a more elaborate education on women’s sexual health and vibrators,” Dubinskaya said. “I believe that all this is possible as we are now normalizing the discussion on female sexual health.”