Sexual side effects: Prescription drugs may affect sex drive in men, women

TULSA - "Lots of passion. Lots of calling into work," Jessica Pesch laughed as she described the relationship she shared with James Pesch shortly after they met.

The two fell in love fast and married just months after their first date.

"We ended up getting pregnant a month after we were married, so," Jessica said.

Raising their son, Jayce, and building their personal training and nutrition business demands all of their time. When Jessica began suffering severe mood swings and depression, her doctor prescribed an anti-depressant.

She said it helped at first, helped her be a "better boss, better wife, better mom."

"It was a great thing -- positive as far as we ceased to fight anymore ever," James Pesch said. "That was really good but then I noticed she really didn't have an opinion on anything anymore."

James noticed she had no opinion on what restaurant to choose, what movie to see, or whether they would be intimate.

"I noticed right away I didn't have a sex drive. Right away," Jessica said, confirming James' initial concerns.

The lack of intimacy pushed them apart. James said he was constantly battling the inner turmoil of whether or not which one as worse -- the fighting or the lack of intimacy.

The National Institutes of Health and numerous other websites, including AARP   and WebMD , list medications that affect desire among men and women. Anti-depressants are among the worst culprits, followed by anti-anxiety medications, and the diuretics and drugs prescribed to fight high blood pressure. Certain muscle relaxants, heartburn medicine and some common antihistamines can also affect sexual function.

As a result, Reasor's pharmacy manager Renee Cuaderes, D.Ph., encourages patients to read up on side effects , though there are no sexual side effects listed on any warning labels.

"Of all the side effects you can experience to drugs, it's not normally one of the most common," Cuaderes said.

She suggested talking with your doctor about options. It may be possible to reduce the dose or even take a drug holiday, which she explained as a brief pill-popping hiatus.

"Sometimes the side effects will not be experienced the second time around or they will subside and you will have better luck next time," Cuaderes said. "If that doesn't work, ask for your doctor for a different medication."

"I think doctors are sometimes embarrassed to bring it up to the patients. They get kind of focused on high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and they are not really thinking about things like sexual dysfunction," said Dr. Scott Litwiller, a urologist who treats sexual dysfunction in men and women at Urologic Specialists in Tulsa.

He recommends talking to your doctor.

If changing medications is not an option, medications that boost desire may help. Litwiller warns patients to be sure to rely on proven, FDA-approved medications.

"There are a lot of things out there on the Internet that people will look up that don't have a lot of good, medical basis behind that," he said. "So, you want to use medications that are really well studied and approved for those kinds of things."

Jessica had talked with her doctor and ended up with advice she rejected.

"She basically told me that women don't have sex drives when they have families and careers, so I just needed to make time to have sex," Jessica recalled.

Once she decided to get a second opinion, her family doctor found a serious thyroid imbalance was causing her mood swings. Jessica soon stopped taking the anti-depressant and within two months felt a renewed interest in intimacy.

"I wanted to have sex again! For the first time in about two years!" she said. "And now I have those feelings again, you know?"

Now a certified nutrition advisor, she suggests keeping a journal of the medicines you take and how they affect you.

"Be aware of how you feel when you put things in your body," Jessica encouraged.

Paying attention to the side effects and seeking answers paid off for the two of them.

"Life together now is fantastic!" James said. "Definitely always make sure we have 'Sex Time Sunday' no matter what. That's kind of a set appointment every week and I look forward to it, absolutely!"

Doctors, and this couple, insist you have to be your own advocate. Read up on medications and find out if it's the medication or your medical condition that's impacting your interest in intimacy.

MEDS THAT CAN AFFECT YOUR SEX LIFE

AARP lists seven meds that can "wreck your sex life"

Fit & Health's list of drugs that can affect sexual response

WebMD's list of drugs linked to erectile dysfunction

Medline Plus' list of drugs that may cause impotence

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