4 hormones that influence libido – and how they work


Despite the important role our libido can play in our daily lives, it’s one of those topics that very few of us feel comfortable talking about.

Society has come a long way when it comes to discussing what happens in the bedroom, but when it comes to how much sex we actually have, we’re less likely to talk. . This is probably why so many of us worry about not “having enough”.

But the insecurity many of us feel about our libido isn’t the only reason this lack of conversation is such a problem. As well as having an emotional impact, it also means that many of us misunderstand what low, normal or high libido looks like – not to mention the important biological factors that influence our desire levels throughout our lives.

Indeed, while lifestyle factors — including relationship happiness — can certainly impact your libido, it’s your hormones that have the biggest influence.

And while you can’t control how your hormone levels change throughout your life, knowing what’s going on inside your body can help you be more compassionate with yourself and your family. libido.

How Your Hormones Influence Your Libido (And The Main Ones To Watch Out For)

Ruffled sheets
Our hormones play a big role in determining our libido.

While the decision to have sex is a conscious decision we make in the moment, the chemicals inside our bodies influence the level of desire we feel before and during sex. Four key hormones play a role in this process, each of which is influenced by different external factors.


One of the most influential hormones when it comes to libido is cortisol, the stress hormone. The psychological impact of stress can certainly play a part in whether or not we want to have sex – feeling drained and overwhelmed can make it hard to be in the moment – but it’s the impact cortisol can have on other body hormones that makes it so powerful. .

“While your cortisol levels typically drop after the stressful situation that triggered the surge subsides, your body will continue to produce cortisol if you’re under a lot of stress,” says Dr Manpreet Bains, GP and Head of Clinical Operations to the health test. Thriva company.

“This prevents your body from making enough other hormones, such as estrogen, which are important for your libido because your body prioritizes making cortisol over other vital hormones.”

Along with preventing the production of other vital hormones, chronic stress can also cause your body to use sex hormones to produce more cortisol, further lowering sex drive in the process.


Estrogen is best known for its role in the development and maintenance of the female reproductive system, for example by regulating menstruation. But our estrogen levels can also impact libido.

“Low levels of estrogen can lower your libido,” says Dr. Bains. “Your levels may be low at any time in your life, but estrogen naturally declines as you age and approach menopause.”

It is for this reason that many women experience a decrease in libido as they approach and go through menopause – although some women retain their libido despite this.

A woman in bed
Low estrogen levels can adversely affect your libido.


Testosterone is generally known as a male hormone, but it plays an important role in the female body, from promoting bone health to maintaining our libido.

“Testosterone is actually essential for women,” says Dr. Bains. “As you age, testosterone levels can drop, which can affect your libido.”

High levels of testosterone – which are commonly experienced by women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – can also lead to low libido along with a number of other symptoms.

Thyroid hormones

Having an underactive or overactive thyroid can also affect your libido due to the important hormones that are produced in this area of ​​the body.

“Your thyroid gland produces hormones that control metabolism. [influencing things such as energy and mood]so if your thyroid isn’t working properly, it can affect your libido,” says Dr. Bains.

“If you think your thyroid gland might be the problem, you can test your thyroid function with a blood test.

“There are many treatment options available if an imbalance occurs.”

When should you worry about your libido?

There really isn’t a “normal” libido – it’s sort of what’s normal for you. As such, the only reason you should care about your libido is if you’ve noticed a drastic difference that’s impacting your life, says Dr. Bains.

You might also consider seeking help if you’re unhappy with your libido or if it’s affecting your relationship, but that’s entirely up to you.

For more information on managing a low libido – including other factors that can influence libido and the help available – you can visit the NHS website.

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