Experts examine the latest options to liven things up in the bedroom


Seeking help for sexual health problems can not only be embarrassing but is also increasingly difficult, with the number of face-to-face appointments now halved as a result of the pandemic. 

A host of new products in pharmacies and online promise to help. Caroline Jones asked the experts to assess some of the latest options available. We then rated them. 

Men’s Fertility Test 

Spermcheck Male Fertility Test

£29.99, boots.com

Spermcheck Male Fertility Test

Claim: This test promises to be ‘as accurate as the test you’d have at a clinic — but in the privacy of your own home’. You collect a sperm sample in the provided cup and mix it with a solution in a small bottle, then add six drops to a pregnancy-style test window. A positive result means a healthy sperm count; negative equals a low count.

Expert verdict: ‘This works by detecting a protein found only in sperm and will adequately assess a man’s sperm count,’ says Professor Pacey. ‘However, it is a less accurate method than that used in a clinical laboratory, where sperm are manually counted using a microscopic lens to magnify them.

‘Nor will this test be able to tell if the sperm are swimming normally or whether they are the right size and shape — both of which are important for egg fertilisation.

‘However, if it helps overcome the initial anxiety or embarrassment of having a fertility test then it will have served a good purpose as a first-line investigation for men to try at home themselves.’

5/10 

Male Libido Capsules 

Male Boost

£59.99 for 180 capsules, lamuscle.com

Male Boost

Male Boost

Claim: Containing a blend of the herbs ginseng and maca root, plus vitamin E and zinc, this supplement promises to be a ‘natural testosterone booster’. Take one or two capsules, three times a day.

Expert verdict: ‘I can’t find any robust research to suggest that any of these ingredients actually boost testosterone levels, although there is some evidence that getting enough vitamin E and zinc is important for healthy male fertility,’ says Allan Pacey, a professor of andrology (male fertility and sexual health) at the University of Sheffield. 

‘Taking six capsules a day will be expensive and men would be better off buying some fresh fruit and vegetables.

‘Men with a low libido should see their GPs to rule out medical problems — it can be an indicator of diabetes, heart disease or a side-effect of depression. Also, increased testosterone levels won’t help men who are trying to start a family because taking testosterone in any form decreases sperm production.’

2/10  

Women’s Fertility Test 

Medichecks Female Hormone Blood Test

£79, hollandandbarrett.com

Claim: For this ‘hormone MOT’ test, take a fingerprick blood sample at home and send it to a lab for a report on levels of oestrogen, testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH, a useful indicator of ovarian health) and thyroid function.

This can identify imbalances that could be causing period problems, says the maker.

Expert verdict: ‘Hormone levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, so a one-off blood test reading is just a snapshot of what is going on during that particular day,’ says Dr Adib.

‘I would be concerned that this test could either worry a patient unnecessarily or give a false sense of security. Hormone tests are complex and best done in consultation with your GP.’

1/10  

Medichecks Female Hormone Blood Test

Medichecks Female Hormone Blood Test

Sex Drive Supplement 

NHP Libido Support For Women

£21.69 for 60 capsules, amazon.co.uk

NHP Libido Support For Women

NHP Libido Support For Women

Claim: A blend of the herbs damiana, maca, ginseng, ginger and rhodiola, plus vitamin B3 and the amino acid L-arginine, which claims to ‘put the passion back and create an enjoyable sex life’. Take two capsules per day.

Expert verdict: ‘Maca root powder is from a South American herb thought to be helpful for male and female libido, although a 2010 review found there were not enough robust studies to prove this benefit,’ says Dr Adib.

‘Vitamin B3, L-arginine and ginseng are thought to help with energy and blood circulation, while rhodiola root (from a flowering plant) may help ease stress, which is known to improve female libido.

‘It’s safe to take and may boost your energy a bit, but is quite expensive for a monthly supply.’

4/10  

Pelvic Floor Exerciser 

Vivify Rejuvenating Pelvic Floor Toner

£349.99, stressnomore.co.uk

Vivify Rejuvenating Pelvic Floor Toner

Vivify Rejuvenating Pelvic Floor Toner

Claim: This wand uses vibrations to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, helping to combat incontinence. It promises to ‘rejuvenate vaginal tissue’ by emitting red LED light, and uses blue LED light to kill any harmful bacteria. Use it for ten minutes per day.

Expert verdict: ‘There is evidence that red LED light stimulates the production of skin-strengthening collagen inside the vagina, which could have a mild effect on vaginal elasticity. Blue light is antibacterial, which could improve the general health of the vagina,’ says Dr Tania Adib, a consultant gynaecologist at The Lister Hospital in London.

‘But the effect of the vibration on toning the pelvic floor muscles will be minimal compared to devices used in clinics by physiotherapists trained to help women with incontinence or prolapse. This gadget is also expensive. If you have weak pelvic muscles, then it could be used alongside proper physiotherapy treatments.’ 

5/10  

Premature ejaculation spray 

Stud 100 Desensitizing Spray For Men

£5.99 for 12g, boots.com

Stud 100 Desensitizing Spray For Men

Stud 100 Desensitizing Spray For Men

Claim: This spray contains a numbing ingredient and, when used on the penis just before intercourse, is thought to reduce sensitivity ‘to delay ejaculation’. Use three to eight sprays, five to 15 minutes before sex. A health questionnaire must be completed and checked by a pharmacist when buying online.

Expert verdict: ‘Premature ejaculation is a common problem, particularly in younger men who may have penis hypersensitivity or performance anxiety,’ says Dr Amr Raheem, a consultant in andrology at International Andrology London.

‘This spray contains lidocaine — a local anaesthetic and first-line treatment for premature ejaculation. However, it’s important that online pharmacies use a health questionnaire to rule out other causes, such as hormonal disturbances or chronic prostatovesiculitis (inflamed prostate and semen tubes). It can also be caused by psychosexual problems and relationship issues, in which case patients may need to be referred to their GP or a specialist to treat any underlying problem.’ 

7/10 

Fertility Tracker App 

Glow Period Fertility Tracker

Free to download from App Store on iPhone

Glow Period Fertility Tracker

Glow Period Fertility Tracker

Claim: This app is designed to help women track their menstrual cycles and fertility by recording period dates, weight, plus symptoms such as mood changes or headaches. It’s claimed this can help pinpoint when women are most fertile.

Expert verdict: ‘Apps like these are great for helping women get to know their body rhythms,’ says Dr Adib. ‘Hormones fluctuate throughout the month and this can dictate mood and energy levels. Recording daily information and identifying patterns can help you plan your life around your period.

‘However, this cannot reliably predict fertility. If trying for a baby, you’re better off using the ovulation sticks that you pee on to detect levels of luteinising hormone (which is released by the ovaries when women ovulate). This is a far more accurate way to identify when you’re at your most fertile.’

4/10 

Pills you can now get without a prescription 

Hana Daily Contraceptive

£8.95 for a one-month supply, chemistdirect.co.uk

Claim: Known as the mini pill, this is a daily contraceptive tablet to prevent pregnancy, containing progesterone only (75mg of desogestrel). It’s up to 99 per cent effective when taken correctly, says the maker. No prescription needed.

Expert verdict: ‘Because this contraceptive pill contains only the hormone progesterone, it has none of the risks of developing a blood clot that the combined (oestrogen and progesterone) pill has,’ says Dr Adib. 

‘Many women feel uncomfortable asking their GPs for the contraceptive pill, so buying it online can be invaluable.

‘However, the same pill would be free on prescription from your GP. Seeing a GP also provides the opportunity to talk through other contraceptive options which may better suit your needs.

‘To be effective, the progesterone-only pill has to be taken at the same time every day and many women may not realise this. There may also be side-effects such as irregular bleeding, acne and bloating.’

7/10 

Hana Daily Contraceptive

Hana Daily Contraceptive

Liberize (sildenafil)

£14.99 for four 50mg tablets, boots.com

Claim: This helps men achieve and maintain an erection. Take one tablet an hour before sex. An online questionnaire must be completed before this can be dispensed.

Liberize (sildenafil)

Liberize (sildenafil)

Expert verdict: ‘This is the same drug (sildenafil) as Viagra, which is still considered the gold standard treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED),’ says Sultan Dajani, a pharmacist in Hampshire.

‘Buying it online makes it easy to lie or forget to include information about other medication that could interact with it. More worryingly, ED may have a more serious cause, such as diabetes, heart problems or even cancer.

‘Sildenafil doesn’t work for everyone — some men find tadalafil (brand name Cialis) has a longer-lasting effect and is less likely to cause headaches, which are a common side-effect.’

6/10 

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