Article Published by: harpersbazaar.com
Miracle injection—or shot in the dark? A radical new treatment for women promises a cure for the bedroom blues.
Call it the shot heard round the world—only this time the revolution is on behalf of modern women. The O-Shot, a new, noninvasive treatment that aims to alleviate female sexual dysfunction by extracting PRP, or platelet-rich plasma, from a woman’s own blood and injecting it directly into the vaginal area.
As Charles Runels, an Alabama cosmetic doctor (who’s better known as the creator of the Vampire Facial, made famous when Kim Kardashian had the procedure done on TV), explains, the O-Shot uses PRP to stimulate the growth of new cells in a woman’s vaginal walls and clitoris. The platelets, which the body utilizes to naturally generate tissue, increase not only the number of cells but also, Runels claims, sensitivity to stimulation.
Runels says that he was inspired by the array of treatments available for men dealing with sexual problems—with everything from Viagra to penile implants as a remedy—and the glaring void when it came to female sexual dysfunction, even though more than 40 percent of American women are estimated to suffer from it. There was nothing similar for women, recalls Samuel Wood, a San Diego reproductive endocrinologist who began a clinical trial on the procedure in 2011. Now he and Runels are hopeful that the in-office treatment, which takes about 20 minutes and can be done only by a certified doctor or nurse-practitioner, will be the answer both for those women and for others looking to boost a less than satisfying sex life.
Take Nadia*, 39, a mother of three who found sex with her fiancé lacking. In her younger days, she says, “I was turned on whenever the guy was,” but by her late 30s, getting to that same level of arousal “required so much foreplay, I was ready to give up.” Though she tried over-the-counter lubricants, she complained that they didn’t last. When she heard about the O-Shot, she decided to give it a try. She says she now has an orgasm every time she has sex, “stronger ones than I used to have when I was younger.”
Similarly, Gail*, 53, has been married for 20 years and had resigned herself to lackluster, once-a-month lovemaking. “I wasn’t really aroused no matter what we did,” she says. So when her nurse-practitioner suggested the shot, she was more than willing. The result? She noticed an immediate effect, and she returned home from work that day ready to go. Whereas before, she’d fake orgasms and felt “inadequate,” she now looks forward to sex.
So how does the O-Shot work? First, the patient’s blood is drawn (about half a tablespoon) and placed in a centrifuge to separate out the PRP. To determine where an injection will have maximum results, Wood does “vaginal mapping,” asking the patient where she’s most sensitive, and then an anesthetic cream is applied to the area. “You have to understand each woman’s sexuality and her anatomy to know where to put it,” he explains. The procedure, which costs $1,200 to $1,500 and isn’t covered by insurance, has the added benefit of creating what he refers to as an immediate volumizing effect, which lasts up to a week. The real payoff, though, comes over the next few months as the PRP “stimulates the stem cells, collagen, and blood vessels,” says Runels, who calls it “fertilizer to grow the tissue.” (The overall effect should last at least 18 months.)
As for safety, Runels says that no serious side effects have been reported. The treatment itself doesn’t require FDA oversight, although an FDA-cleared kit is required to prepare the plasma. And it has plenty of skeptics. Laura Berman, author of Loving Sex: The Book of Joy and Passion, is concerned about the lack of scientific studies thus far. (Results of both Runels’s and Wood’s clinical trials will be published this year.) “There’s no mechanism of action that I can see that would really facilitate arousal and orgasm,” Berman says. “It feels like they’re taking advantage of a valid longing that millions of women have and stating a claim that hasn’t been supported in any substantial way other than through anecdotal reports.”
Perhaps Dena Harris, a New York gynecologist who has treated women suffering from vulvar pain with PRP and is interested in seeing study results, sums it up best: “I don’t know if it works, but I really hope it does.
ABOUT IFFIE OKORONKWO, M.D.
Iffie Okoronkwo, M.D. is a Spine and Sports Rehabilitation Medicine and Pain Management physician at Manhattan Spine and Sports Medicine (http://www.manhattanmd.com/), a private practice based in New York City with 40 years of experience providing the finest expert medical care and services to patients around the world.
Dr. Iffie is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and, as a physiatrist, utilizes ultrasound guided injections, fluoroscopy guided injections, PRP, regenerative medicine, and more to evaluate and treat a variety of conditions affecting muscles, joints, ligaments, and nerves.