THE FACTS For several years, scientists have known that traditional bicycle seats can cause sexual dysfunction in men. Although female cyclists had not been studied directly, it was widely assumed that they, too, could suffer that fate.
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But that may not be the case. For the first time, a study this month looked at avid female cyclists and found that bike seats may affect them differently. Like male riders, many women in the study experienced tingling, pain and decreased genital sensation. But they did not show symptoms of impaired sexual function, possibly reflecting a lower susceptibility to sexual side effects than men.
The study, published in the journal Sexual Medicine, looked at 48 healthy, premenopausal cyclists who biked about three to four days a week for two hours at a time, then compared them with 22 runners.
In men, traditional bike seats compress an artery and nerve that supply the genitals with blood and sensation, increasing the risk of impotence over time. Because the same artery and nerve are crucial to sexual function in women, assumptions about female cyclists are often extrapolated from studies on men.
But Dr. Marsha K. Guess, an assistant professor at Yale medical school and the lead author of the new study, said female cyclists may benefit from anatomical differences that produce less compression. She also stressed the possibility that sexual side effects in female cyclists might be noticeable only in longer-term studies.
THE BOTTOM LINE Bicycle seats can cause decreased genital sensation in avid female cyclists, but the latest study suggests they may not cause sexual dysfunction.
Source:New York Times