Effectiveness of interventions aimed at improving the sexuality of women with multiple sclerosis: a systematic review

Clin Rehabil. 2020 Apr;34(4):438-449. doi: 10.1177/0269215520901751. Epub 2020 Feb 12.


Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of interventions aimed at improving the sexuality of women with multiple sclerosis.

Data sources: MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Web of Science, Scopus, Embase and the Cochrane Library, as well as doctoral thesis databases Teseo and ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global and the grey literature database Opengrey were searched, last on 15 October 2019. Journals related to the topic were also consulted. The bibliographic references of the articles included were reviewed.

Method: Studies were selected if they included women with multiple sclerosis in whom interventions aimed at reducing sexual dysfunction were applied. Data extraction was carried out by two independent reviewers. The Jadad scale was used to evaluate the methodological quality of the studies included.

Results: In total, 12 clinical trials were selected, and 611 patients were examined. Studies were classified into six interventions: sexual therapy (4), pharmaceutical drugs (3), pelvic floor exercises (2), yoga (1), mindfulness (1) and vaginal devices (1). Most of them improved some primary outcomes of sexual dysfunction such as lubrication, arousal, desire or orgasm. Pain was the most common secondary outcome evaluated and it became better in two studies including sexual therapy and in one intervention with pelvic floor exercises. Tertiary outcomes such as anxiety or depression were rarely examined, and they improved with sexual therapy and with OnabotulinumtoxinA.

Conclusion: Sexual therapy, administration of OnabotulinumtoxinA, pelvic floor muscles exercises alone or combined with electrostimulation and the use of clitoral devices could be the most recommended interventions to improve the sexuality in women with multiple sclerosis.

Keywords: Multiple sclerosis; intervention; sexuality; women.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / therapy
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / etiology
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / therapy*
  • Sexuality*