Over time, there have been several theories proposed about how the menstrual cycle might impact a woman’s sexual desire. Researchers have investigated this topic, but thus far, the results of their studies have been largely contradictory and inconclusive. As such, we are left with the unanswered question: Does the menstrual cycle impact sexual desire?
A team of researchers endeavored to find the answer to this question. The researchers recruited first-year female university students with and without menstrual cycle difficulties to participate in this study, which involved completing a daily questionnaire on their sexual desire, psychological changes, and physical changes over the course of two menstrual cycles.
The questionnaires included three parts: 1) two questions about sexual desire (“In the last 24 hours did you experience an increase in sexual desire?” and “In the last 24 hours did you experience a decrease in sexual desire?”), 2) 12 questions about psychological changes that addressed anxiety, depressed mood, happiness, mood swings, and energy, and 3) seven questions about physical changes that measured back/joint pain, breast changes, cramps, and headaches.
In total, 213 women participated in this study. The average age of the participants was 21.29 years. Over the two-month study period, the participants missed an average of 5 (out of 60) daily questionnaires. Ultimately, 11,735 questionnaires were included in the final analysis.
Upon compiling and analyzing the survey data, the researchers found that the menstrual cycle was associated with a small midcycle increase in sexual desire on average. Nevertheless, they observed a large variation in their results – meaning that there were big differences for individuals in how the menstrual cycle did (or did not) affect their sexual desire.
For example, some women showed a midcycle increase in sexual desire, some women reported an increase in sexual desire before menstruation, and others had no change in sexual desire across the course of their menstrual cycle.
One interesting finding was that the psychological changes that were measured in this study appeared to have a greater impact on the women’s sexual desire than the physical changes. In fact, happiness was the strongest predictor of change in sexual desire (i.e., increasing sexual desire) among all of the measured physical and psychological changes. Other strong predictors of change in sexual desire included depressed mood, mood swings, low energy, and back/joint pain, which were all associated with decreased sexual desire.
These findings suggest that the menstrual cycle does not impact the sexual desire of all women in the same way, so assumptions about how a person “should” respond during specific points of their cycle should be abandoned.
For more information on this topic, please read these publications from the ISSM Journals: The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Sexual Medicine Reviews, and Sexual Medicine Open Access:
Kiesner, J., Bittoni, C., Eisenlohr-Moul, T., Komisaruk, B., & Pastore, M. (2023). Menstrual cycle–driven vs noncyclical daily changes in sexual desire. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 20(6), 756-765. https://doi.org/10.1093/jsxmed/qdad032