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J Sex Marital Ther. 2002;28 Suppl 1:39-53.

Genital and subjective sexual arousal in postmenopausal women: influence of laboratory-induced hyperventilation.

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  • 1University of British Columbia, Department of Psychology, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada.


The current study was aimed at comparing genital and subjective sexual arousal in pre- and postmenopausal women and exploring the effects of heightened sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity on these parameters. Seventy-one women (25 young and premenopausal, 25 postmenopausal, and 21 age-matched premenopausal women) participated in two counterbalanced sessions consisting of genital arousal assessment with vaginal photoplethysmography and subjective arousal assessment with self-report questionnaires. SNS activity was enhanced using laboratory-induced hyperventilation. Results demonstrated no significant differences between pre- and postmenopausal women on genital and subjective measures of arousal in response to neutral and erotic films. SNS manipulation increased genital excitement only in young, premenopausal women. These data suggest that prior SNS enhancement can differentiate pre- from postmenopausal genital arousal. Data also revealed significant correlations between genital and subjective sexual arousal in older pre- and postmenopausal women, but not in young premenopausal women. These data are the first to directly compare genital-subjective correlations between pre- and postmenopausal women.

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