Contrary to popular belief, a woman’s sexual health and interest in sex can vary wildly over a period of time. Sexual desire, or libido, is influenced by a variety of factors, namely hormones that operate within the body to regulate reproductive cycles. External factors can also have drastic effects on the libido. These may include stress, mental health, diet and family or relationship dynamics. This results in periods during which women may experience heightened or significantly lowered sexual desire.
While fluctuations in libido and even low libido are normal, a sudden and long-lasting decrease in sexual desire may be cause for concern. There is a difference between having a decreased libido for a limited time and having low libido that causes personal distress. The latter is called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).
Symptoms of HSDD usually manifest as a lack of interest in any sexual activity, either with a partner or through masturbation, a lack of sexual fantasies or thoughts, lack of pleasure during sex and an awareness and concern over the lack of sexual desire.
HSDD is hard to truly diagnose because it varies between women. Some women have much higher sex drives than others, and the large number of factors that affect libido can make it difficult to pinpoint the root of the problem.
Major causes of decreased libido
Major life changes are when most women experience a decreased sex drive, such as pregnancy and menopause. These changes are hormone-driven.
- Pregnancy: Hormonal changes throughout the duration of pregnancy, and then immediately following pregnancy, may introduce periods of lower libido. Physical changes, including pain and sensitivity in the erogenous zones, may also lead to libido changes.
- Menopause: During menopause, estrogen and testosterone levels drop dramatically, which may lead to a decrease in sex drive. Women also often report that lubrication becomes more of a problem during menopause, which can lead to uncomfortable or painful sex.
Apart from major life changes for women, physical changes, including fatigue, pain, chronic health conditions or prescription medications may reduce libido. Additionally, lifestyle habits including excessive drugs, alcohol or smoking may have an effect on your sex drive.
Beyond your sex hormone levels and physical bodily changes, psychological changes can also affect your interest in sex. Stress is one of the leading causes of low libido—stress increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can alter the balance of other hormones in the body. Mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and low self-esteem, also play a role.
Additionally, interpersonal issues may be causing problems for your libido. Being in dysfunctional relationships or working through relationship problems with your sexual partner may lead to a lack of interest in having sex with them.
Visiting a doctor may help you identify the cause of your low libido, if it is not already apparent to you. They may run blood tests and pelvic exams to try to identify an underlying physical or hormonal cause.
How low libido can affect you
Having low libido can cause you significant emotional distress. For many women, sexual activity is a regular part of life, and the inability to have sex without pain or the lack of interest in sex is deeply concerning.
Additionally, having decreased libido may strain your relationship with one or more sexual partners. Your partner may express frustration or hurt if they feel that they are unable to meet your sexual needs, and vice versa. Sometimes, these problems may need sexual and/or relationship therapy to work through.
Treatment options for low female libido
There are many forms of treatment for low libido available to women. The correct treatment method for you will largely depend on the underlying cause of your decreased sexual interest.
If your libido issues stem from a problem with hormone regulation, your doctor may prescribe medication to regulate the thyroid. They may also prescribe supplements for important libido-boosting hormones like estrogen to bring hormone levels back up to normal. Hormonal medications may be necessary not only to regulate your libido, but to ensure proper functionality of other bodily systems, as well.
Natural supplements may also help to boost your libido by increasing sensitivity and lubrication through the use of aphrodisiac herbs. This type of product is ideal for women entering menopause or who have naturally low libidos that do not stem from a hormone regulation issue.
If your low libido appears to be linked to your lifestyle, there are numerous methods to try and boost your sexual drive. Exercise, healthy eating and meditation are all beneficial to overall wellness and can help mitigate stressors that affect libido.
Feel better and in the mood
It is important for women to remember that fluctuations in sexual desire are normal. Taking steps to have open communication with your sexual partners and working to maintain a healthy lifestyle will mitigate the stressors that tend to make libido drop.
If you experience a long-term drop in libido, visiting a doctor can help you identify the root of your problems and find a solution that will help you feel more like yourself.