Libido is complicated. While for guys, it seems simply to be a mechanical matter down there, the biggest “sex organ” for women might just be up top—the brain. From time to time, most women experience just not feeling in the mood, but what’s going on when that feeling is persistent or recurrent? The explanation is often multifactorial and in some instances, may very well come as a surprise.
Consider this. Sexual health and general health go hand in hand. Conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, thyroid disorders, and anemia, to name a few, can negatively affect sexual desire. Anemia and underactive thyroid can cause fatigue and exhaustion. Poorly controlled diabetes or hypertension can impair blood flow, everywhere, and might inhibit lubrication and arousal. Stay up to date with a general physical and routine health blood work to make sure you’re up to snuff in the bedroom.
Medications that can contribute to low libido
Certain medications can affect sexual drive. Most notable are the antidepressants , SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which commonly lower libido and potential for orgasm. A more pro-sexual alternative might be Bupropion if appropriate. Keep in mind that the depression and anxiety these medications are treating might be the underlying cause of low sex drive in the first place, so regular monitoring is essential.
The oral contraceptive pill has been linked to low libido in select women although this remains a controversial issue and should be managed individually. Hormonal fluctuations due to pregnancy, nursing, perimenopause, and menopause have proven effects on libido. In some cases, hormone replacement therapy with estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA is beneficial.
Pain during sex can also negatively impact a healthy libido. If left unaddressed, pain leads to less desire and eventual sexual avoidance. Simple vaginal moisturizers and lubricants like KY Jelly or Astroglide might be a quick fix for pain due to vaginal dryness. Natural suggestions include Uberlube, coconut oil, hyaluronic acid, and aloe. Deeper pain during intercourse could be the result of structural issues such as ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, or endometriosis. This type of pain can and should be addressed by your gynecologist.
Stress and partner issues
Many women will feel a buzz kill in the bedroom when they don’t fit into their skinny jeans. Sexual self-esteem can suffer when you’re overweight. A healthy diet and regular exercise program are vital to a healthy sex life. The Mediterranean diet, good for heart health and cancer prevention, is rich in lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and olive oil rather than butter. A combination of cardio and strength training leads to more sexual stamina. Alcohol intake is a double-edged sword in that in low levels, it may decrease inhibitions and enhance libido, while in higher doses it acts as a depressant and causes drowsiness.
Partner issues remain a common influence on libido. Relationship strain, be it an overt argument, an infidelity threat or occurrence, subconscious unhappiness or current or prior history of abuse will surely dampen sex drive. Counseling is suggested if communication between partners proves inadequate. Even in happy, committed, long term relationships, sexual boredom can diminish desire. In this case, try spicing things up and rekindling the spark with novelty, date night, an impromptu weekend away, or erotica.
Stress: the ultimate mood killer
Worth a mention is the negative effect of stress on sex drive. Today’s modern multitasker often puts sex on the back burner due to the stress of day to day work life balance, kids, financial concerns, and overcommitment. Lack of privacy when kids are home can easily kill the mood. Put a lock on the bedroom door…doctor’s orders! Be mindful rather than mindfull when it comes to sex and intimacy. Remember, sex is a wonderful stress reliever and may enhance productivity and efficiency in the long run.
In some cases a gyno who specializes in female sexual health or a sex therapist from a mental health discipline is needed (you can find reputable resources here and here). The good news is, low libido is no longer a taboo subject. In most cases, your gynecologist can be your first stop to sort out and manage libido concerns.
Have a question for Dr. Dweck? Leave it in the comments.