Understanding low libido in women
Women’s sexual desires naturally fluctuate over the years. The ups and downs usually coincide with the start or end of a relationship or with major life changes, such as pregnancy, menopause, or illness. Certain medications used for mood disorders can also cause low libido in women.
If your lack of interest in sex persists or returns and causes personal distress, you may have a condition called sexual interest/arousal disorder. But you don’t have to meet this medical definition to seek help. If you’re bothered by low libido or decreased libido, there are lifestyle changes and sexual techniques that can get you in the mood more often. Some drugs may also show promise.
If you want to have sex less often than your partner, neither of you is necessarily outside the norm for people at your life stage – although your differences can cause distress. Likewise, even if your libido is lower than it once was, your relationship may be stronger than ever.
Symptoms of low libido in women include:
a. Having no interest in any type of sexual activity, including masturbation
b. Never or only rarely sexual fantasies or thoughts
vs. Being preoccupied with your lack of sexual activity or your fantasies
Sexual desire is based on a complex interplay of many elements affecting intimacy, including physical and emotional well-being, experiences, beliefs, lifestyle, and your current relationship. If you have a problem in any of these areas, it can affect your sex drive.
A. Physical causes:
A wide range of illnesses, physical changes, and medications can cause low libido, including:
a. Sexual problems: If you have pain during sex or can’t orgasm, it can reduce your desire for sex.
b. Medical diseases: Many non-sex diseases can affect libido, including arthritis, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and neurological diseases.
vs. Medications: Some prescription medications, especially antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are known to lower sex drive.
D. Lifestyle habits: Drinking alcohol can affect your libido. The same goes for street drugs. Also, smoking decreases blood flow, which can lead to dull excitement.
e. Surgery: Any surgery related to your breasts or genitals can affect your body image, sexual function, and sex drive.
F. Fatigue: Exhaustion from caring for young children or aging parents can contribute to low libido. Fatigue from illness or surgery can also play a role in low libido.
g. Hormonal changes: Changes in your hormone levels can alter your desire for sex. This can happen during:
Menopause: Estrogen levels drop during the transition to menopause. It can make you less interested in sex and cause dry vaginal tissue, leading to painful or uncomfortable sex. Although many women still have satisfying sex through menopause and beyond, some experience a slowing of libido during this hormonal shift.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Hormonal changes during pregnancy, right after having a baby, and while breastfeeding can put a damper on sex drive. Fatigue, changes in body image, and the pressures of pregnancy or caring for a new baby can also contribute to changes in your sex drive.
B. Psychological causes:
Your state of mind can affect your sex drive. There are many psychological causes for a low libido, including:
a. Mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.
b. Stress, such as financial stress or work stress
vs. Poor body image.
D. Low self-esteem.
e. History of physical or sexual abuse.
F. Previous negative sexual experiences
g. Relationship problems.
For many women, emotional closeness is an essential prelude to sexual intimacy. So, problems in your relationship can be a major factor in low libido. Decreased interest in sex is often the result of lingering issues, such as:
Lack of connection with your partner
Unresolved conflicts or fights
Miscommunication of sexual needs and preferences
By definition, you can be diagnosed with hypoactive sexual desire disorder currently known as female sexual interest/arousal disorder if you are frequently lacking in sexual thoughts or desire, and the absence of these feelings causes personal distress. Whether or not you fit this medical diagnosis, your doctor can research why your libido isn’t as high as you’d like and find ways to help.
In addition to asking about your medical and sexual history, your doctor may also:
Perform a pelvic exam: During a pelvic exam, your doctor may check for signs of physical changes contributing to low sex drive, such as thinning of your genital tissues, vaginal dryness, or painful trigger points.
Recommend tests: Your doctor may order blood tests to check hormone levels and check for thyroid problems, diabetes, high cholesterol, and liver disorders.
Refer you to a specialist: A specialist counselor or sex therapist may be able to better assess the emotional and relationship factors that may be causing low libido.
Most women benefit from a treatment approach aimed at the many causes behind this condition. Recommendations may include sex education, counseling, and sometimes medication and hormone therapy.
Sex education and advice:
Talking with a sex therapist or trained counselor to address sexual concerns can help lower libido. Therapy often includes education about sexual response and techniques. Your therapist or counselor will likely provide recommendations for readings or couples exercises. Couples counseling that addresses relationship issues can also help increase feelings of intimacy and desire.
Your doctor will want to review the medications you are already taking, to see if any of them tend to cause sexual side effects. For example, antidepressants such as paroxetine and fluoxetine can reduce sex drive. Switching to bupropion – another type of antidepressant – usually improves libido and is sometimes prescribed for women with sexual interest/arousal disorder.
In addition to counseling, your doctor may prescribe medication to boost your libido. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved options for premenopausal women include flibanserin and bremelanotide.
Dryness or narrowing of the vagina, one of the hallmark signs of genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM), can make sex uncomfortable and, in turn, reduce your desire. Certain hormonal medications that aim to relieve the symptoms of GSM might help make sex more comfortable. And being more comfortable during sex can improve your desire.
Possible hormone therapies include estrogen, testosterone, prasterone, and ospemifene.
Lifestyle and home remedies:
Healthy lifestyle changes can make a big difference in your sex drive, including:
Exercise: Regular aerobic exercise and strength training can increase your endurance, improve your body image, improve your mood, and boost your libido.
Less stress: Finding a better way to cope with work stress, financial stress, and daily hassles can improve your libido.
Communicate with your partner: Couples who learn to communicate openly and honestly generally maintain a stronger emotional bond, which can lead to better sex. Communicating about sex is also important. Talking about your likes and dislikes can set the stage for greater sexual intimacy.
Schedule time for intimacy: Scheduling sex into your schedule can feel contrived and boring. But making intimacy a priority can help get your libido back on track.
Spice up your sex life: try a different sex position, another time of day, or another place for sex. Ask your partner to spend more time on foreplay.
Ditch Bad Habits: Smoking, illegal drugs, and excess alcohol can all dampen your libido. Breaking these bad habits can help boost your libido and improve your overall health.
Talking about a low libido with a doctor can be difficult for some women. Thus, some women may turn to over-the-counter herbal supplements. However, the FDA does not regulate these products, and in many cases they have not been well studied. Herbal supplements may have side effects or interact with other medications you are taking. Always consult a doctor before using them.
A blend of herbal supplements is called Avlimil. This product has estrogen-like effects on the body. Although estrogen can boost your libido, it can also fuel the growth of certain breast cancers. Another choice is a botanical massage oil called Zestra. It is applied to the clitoris, labia and vagina. A small study found that Zestra increased arousal and pleasure compared to a placebo oil. The only reported side effect was a slight burning in the genital area.
Coping and Supporting:
A low libido can be very difficult for you and your partner. It’s natural to feel frustrated or sad if you’re not able to be as sexy and romantic as you want – or used to be. At the same time, a low libido can make your partner feel rejected, which can lead to conflicts and quarrels. And this type of relationship disorder can further reduce sexual desire. It may help to remember that libido fluctuations are part of every relationship and every stage of life.
Try not to focus all your attention on sex. Instead, spend time taking care of yourself and your relationship.
Take a long walk.
Sleep a little more.
Say goodbye to your partner before going out.
Have a date night at your favorite restaurant.
Feeling good about yourself and your partner can actually be the best foreplay.
Preparing for your appointment:
Primary care Doctors and gynecologists often ask questions about sex and intimacy as part of a routine medical visit. Take this opportunity to be candid about your sexual concerns. If your doctor doesn’t bring it up, bring it up. You may feel embarrassed talking about sex with your doctor, but this topic is perfectly appropriate. In fact, your sexual satisfaction is an essential part of your overall health and well-being.