What if a Woman Takes Viagra?

By: Karen Kirkpatrick  | 

Women taking a pill
If you're a woman experiencing sexual difficulties, you should consult a doctor instead of popping the little blue pill. Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

This question sounds like the opening for yet another joke about one of the most well-known and joked-about drugs in the history of pharmaceuticals. Viagra, which is the trade name for the drug sildenafil, is prescribed for men who can't get or maintain an erection when sexually stimulated.

Before looking at what would happen if a woman took Viagra — which is not a joke, by the way — let's explore for a moment how Viagra works on men. So how exactly is Viagra triggered when a man is sexually stimulated? Here's how it goes: When a man is aroused, his body releases nitric oxide into the erectile tissue of his penis, which stimulates an enzyme that produces cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). This causes the smooth muscle cells to relax and the arteries in the penis to dilate, which increases the blood flow to the penis and causes the erectile tissue to also fill with blood. The combination results in an erection. Viagra works by maintaining the level of cGMP in the smooth muscle cells, which are only present in the first place when a man is turned on [source: BPAS].

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Thus endeth the science lesson. Now, on to the original question: What happens if a woman takes Viagra? (First up, always consult a physician before taking prescription medications. The doctor can assess your situation and prescribe the best course of treatment for you or your symptoms.)

A 2003 study from the University of California, Los Angeles, Urology Department was conducted to examine at the effects of sildenafil citrate (Viagra) on postmenopausal women with female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD). Interestingly enough, researchers found that it helped women in a couple of ways. For instance, the women reported increased genital sensation and increased satisfaction during intercourse and stimulation. However, the women also reported some mild side effects, including headache, flushing, rhinitis and nausea [source: Berman].

Since this study, however, few other studies have been designed to examine the effects of women taking Viagra. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drug for women. There are a few drugs out there approved by the FDA to treat low libido in women, that have been wrongly labeled "female viagra." (Viagra is taking care of erectile dysfunction, a physical problem, while these drugs are trying to increase desire for sex.) Botton line: If you're a woman experiencing sexual difficulties, see your doctor for help before trying to take Viagra.

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Originally Published: Jun 12, 2015

Can Women Take Viagra FAQ

What happens if a woman takes Viagra?
We know that Viagra works for males. But when it comes to women, there is only anecdotal evidence that Viagra may result in an increase in sexual pleasure and natural vaginal lubrication.
How long does it take for female Viagra to work?
It can take six to eight weeks for a woman to experience results from female Viagra. However, this varies from person to person and some women experience an increase in sexual desire much sooner.
What effect does Viagra have on women?
Women who take female Viagra may experience an increase in libido. Currently, there are only two such drugs that have been approved.
Is it safe for a woman to take Viagra?
While Viagra (Sildenafil) is sometimes prescribed off-label for women who have a low libido, it has not yet been approved by the FDA, making its safety somewhat questionable.
Are female and male Viagra the same?
There are differences between the two, including the female version’s effect on the brain (as opposed to blood flow), side effects, frequency with which it’s taken and success rate.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Berman, Jennifer et al. "Safety and Efficacy of Sildenafil Citrate for the Treatment of Female Sexual Arousal Disorder: A Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled Study." The Journal of Urology. 170, 6. 2333–2338. December 2003. (April 12, 2015) http://www.jurology.com/article/S0022-5347(05)62837-6/abstract
  • British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). "Viagra (Sildenafil) Facts." (April 12, 2015) https://www.bpas.org/bpasman/viagra
  • Go Ask Alice. "Viagra's Effects on Women." Columbia University. Aug. 7, 2009. (April 12, 2015) http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/viagras-effects-women
  • DeNoon, Daniel J. "Viagra Improves Sex for Some Women." WebMD. Jan. 7, 2004. (April 12, 2015) http://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/news/20040107/viagra-improves-sex-for-some-women

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