Have you noticed your libido has decreased over the past years/months?
It has been a long week, and your partner wants to have sex. You are really not into it and tell him/her you are exhausted or have a headache or aren’t feeling too well and this is why your libido is low. But truth be told, many women aren’t always as interested in sex as they’d like to be. In fact, for up to one-third of adult women, low sexual desire is a chronic problem that interferes with their quality of life. It can even be a cause for distress for many women as they cannot understand why this is happening.
Lately, this discussion has been coming up so often around me that I thought it was time to address it. Low sex drive can happen for various reasons including a change in hormone levels, relationship issues, stress, inadequate nutrition, and low self-esteem amongst other issues are all taking their toll in the bedroom.
Loss of sexual desire and low libido, described in medical terms as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), is the most common form of sexual dysfunction among women of all ages. A recent study showed that nearly one-third of women aged 18 to 59 suffer from a lost interest in sex. This under-reported and under-recognized sexual concern can take a real toll on a woman’s romantic relationships and self-esteem.
Unlike men’s main sexual complaint, erectile dysfunction, women’s biggest sexual problem is a combination of both mental and physical limitations. Unfortunately, these cannot always be solved by popping a pill even though there are medications that can help and we will discuss these further as well.
Life changes can affect sex drive
Women’s sexual desires naturally fluctuate over time. Highs and lows sometimes coincide with the beginning or end of a relationship; job stress is also a primary culprit. Women also go through significant changes with their body and life such as pregnancy, amenorrhea, menopause or sometimes illness. Some medications can also cause low sex drive in women.
Contrary to popular belief, experts say the frequency of sexual intercourse has nothing to do with sexual desire or satisfaction. But when a woman experiences a significant decrease in interest in sex that is having an effect on her life and is causing distress, then it’s considered a problem.
If your sex drive is weaker than it once was. If your relationship may be stronger than ever but you don’t feel you need to have sex. Then it may not necessarily be a problem. But if low sex drive and decreased sexual apetite is causing relationship problems, distress and low self esteem then it becomes and issue. Bottom line: There is no magic number to define low sex drive. It varies between women.
Symptoms of low libido
Symptoms of low sex drive in women include:
- Having no interest in any type of sexual activity, including masturbation
- Never or only seldom having sexual fantasies or thoughts
- Being concerned by your lack of sexual activity or fantasies
- low self esteem and low body image
Causes of low libido
A wide range of illnesses, physical changes and medications can cause a low sex drive, including:
- Sexual problems. If you have pain during sex or can’t orgasm, it can reduce your desire for sex.
- Medical diseases. Many nonsexual diseases can affect sex drive, including arthritis, cancer, coronary artery disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety and neurological diseases.
- Low Testosterone affects sexual drive in both men and women. Testosterone levels peak in women’s mid-20s and then steadily decline until menopause.
- Medications. Certain prescription medication, especially antidepressants can lower the sex drive.
- Interpersonal relationship issues. Partner performance problems, lack of emotional satisfaction with the relationship, the birth of a child, and becoming a caregiver for a loved one can decrease sexual desire.
- Lifestyle habits. A glass of wine may put you in the mood, but too much alcohol can affect your sex drive. Smoking decreases blood flow, which may dull arousal. Too much fat in your diet can mess up your hormones and affect nerve transmission for both men and women. Too many processed foods, sugar and refined grains can cause inflammation in the body which leads to arthritis, obesity, hormone imbalances, all of which will affect libido.
- vitamin D deficiency can lower hormones (estrogen for woman and testosterone for men) which affect mood, sexual desire and performance.
- Sugar. It’s hard to get away from sugar- it is found hidden everywhere these days. Sugar increases levels of the hormone insulin, which can cause you to store more visceral fat, lose muscle mass and cause testosterone levels to drop.
- Caffeine. Caffeine-based products are often very dehydrating and can also have negative effects on the adrenal glands, which in turn – when coupled with stress and anxiety can mean it’s harder to get into the mood.
- Surgery. Any surgery related to your breasts or genital tract can affect your body image, sexual function and desire for sex.
- Fatigue. Exhaustion from caring for young children or ageing parents or a combination of work and home life with little support from the partner can contribute to low sex drive.
- Menopause. Oestrogen levels drop during the transition to menopause. This can make you less interested in sex and cause vaginal dryness, resulting in painful or uncomfortable sex. Testosterone levels also decrease as we grow older that decreases sexual desire. Although many women still have satisfying sex during menopause and beyond, some experience a lagging libido during this hormonal change.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding. Hormone changes during pregnancy, just after having a baby and during breastfeeding can put a damper on sex drive. Fatigue, changes in body image, and the pressures of pregnancy or caring for a new baby also can contribute to changes in your sexual desire.
- Relationship issues: For many women, emotional closeness is essential for sexual intimacy. So problems in your relationship can be a major factor in low sex drive. Decreased interest in sex is often a result of ongoing issues.
If you speak to your doctor, he or she can look for physical reasons that your sex drive isn’t as high as you’d like as a start.
In addition to asking you questions about your medical and sexual history, your doctor may also:
- Perform a pelvic exam. Your doctor can check for signs of physical changes contributing to low libidos, such as thinning of your genital tissues, dryness or pain-triggering spots.
- Recommend testing. Your doctor may recommend some blood tests to check hormone levels for thyroid problems, diabetes, declining sex hormones, high cholesterol and liver disorders.
- Refer you to a specialist. A specialized counselor or sex therapist may be able to better evaluate emotional and relationship factors that can cause low sex drive.
Most women benefit from a treatment approach aimed at the many causes behind this condition. Recommendations may include counselling, medication and hormone therapy.
Talking with a sex therapist skilled in addressing sexual concerns can help identify psychological causes associated with low sex drive. Therapy often includes education about sexual response and techniques. Your therapist likely will provide recommendations for couples’ exercises. Couples counseling that addresses relationship issues may also help increase feelings of intimacy and desire.
Your doctor will review the medications you’re already taking, to see if any of them are causing sexual side effects. Antidepressants such as paroxetine (Paxetin) and fluoxetine (Prozac) may lower sex drive. Switching to bupropion (Wellbutrin) or Agomelatine (Valdoxan) — a different type of antidepressant — usually improves sex drive.
There has been a medication (flibanserin) which has been recently approved by the FDA for treatment of HSDD, but unfortunately it is not yet available everywhere in the world.
Dryness or shrinking of the vagina might make sex uncomfortable and painful which will result in low sex drive. Estrogen may help relieve vaginal atrophy symptoms. Using appropriate lubrication methods can also help in this.
Estrogen is available in many forms, including pills, patches, pessaries and gels. Ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of each form.
Male hormones, such as testosterone, also play an essential role in female sexual function, even though testosterone occurs in much lower amounts in women.
Natural supplements that could help increase female libido
Iron: Low levels of iron in the blood can dim sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, and the ability to have an orgasm. Iron supplements could help combat this effect.
Too much iron is bad for you. More than 20 milligrams of iron a day can cause constipation – so speak to your healthcare provider when taking even natural supplements.
Sea buckthorn oil. There is a very specific essential fatty acid derived from sea buckthorn oil that helps many women in the alleviation of vaginal dryness. Sea Buckthorn oil contains beta carotene, omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids and omega 7 essential fats. Omega 7 essential fatty acids are important structural components of mucous membranes which form the protective lining of internal organs such as the vaginal, digestive and respiratory tracts, as well as the surface of the eyes and mouth. Sea Buckthorn oil not only promotes healthy regeneration of these membranes but also provides nutrients essential for the proper functioning of the membranes in the vaginal tract. So this can be beneficial even to women who have a healthy sex drive but always need a lot of lubrication to enjoy sexual intercourse.
The Femarelle Range.
A few weeks ago I was invited to the launch of the Femarelle range. This is a natural supplement made of DT56a which is a unique blend of soybean extract that will provide hormonal balance when oestrogen starts to decline especially in our forties and fifties as well as relieving vaginal dryness for women who have already gone through menopause. It is a range of three products. All three have a role in different stages of our sex life. Femarelle rejuvenate will help with sleep patterns, energy, mood and PMS symptoms which can all influence sex drive. Femarelle Recharge will not only reduce menopausal symptoms like hot flushes, anxiety, and night sweats but will also increase libido. and Femarelle unstoppable will relieve vaginal dryness. Speak to your gynaecologist, GP or Pharmacist about this or feel free to PM me for more information
How you can prepare yourself to find appropriate treatment.
To prepare for this discussion with your doctor:
- Take note of any sexual problems you’re experiencing, including when and how often you usually experience them.
- Make a list of your key medical information, including any conditions for which you’re being treated, and the names of all medications, vitamins or supplements you’re taking.
- Consider questions to ask your doctor and write them down. Bring along notepaper and a pen to jot down information as your doctor addresses your questions.
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What could be causing my problem?
- Will my level of desire ever get back to what it once was?
- What lifestyle changes can I make to improve my situation?
- What treatments are available?
- What books or other reading materials can you recommend?
- Can there be any underlying causes?
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