Many women experience a low sex drive at some point. But you can get your desire back. Learn about the diagnosis and treatment of lost libido in women.
Women's sexual desires naturally fluctuate over the years. Highs and lows commonly coincide with the beginning or end of a relationship or with major life changes, such as pregnancy, menopause or illness. Some medications used for mood disorders also can cause low sex drive in women.
If your lack of interest in sex continues 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 a low sex drive or decreased sex drive, there are lifestyle changes and sexual techniques that may put you in the mood more often. Some medications may offer promise as well.
If you want to have sex less often than your partner does, neither one of you is necessarily outside the norm for people at your stage in life — although your differences may cause distress.
Similarly, even if your sex drive is weaker than it once was, your relationship may be stronger than ever. Bottom line: There is no magic number to define low sex drive. It varies among women.
Symptoms of low sex drive in women include:
If you're concerned by your low desire for sex, talk to your doctor. The solution could be as simple as changing a medication you are taking, and improving any chronic medical conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Desire for sex is based on a complex interaction of many things affecting intimacy, including physical and emotional well-being, experiences, beliefs, lifestyle, and your current relationship. If you're experiencing a problem in any of these areas, it can affect your desire for sex.
A wide range of illnesses, physical changes and medications can cause a low sex drive, including:
Changes in your hormone levels may alter your desire for sex. This can occur during:
Your state of mind can affect your sexual desire. There are many psychological causes of low sex drive, including:
For many women, emotional closeness is an essential prelude to 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, such as:
By definition, you may be diagnosed with hypoactive sexual desire disorder if you frequently lack sexual thoughts or desire, and the absence of these feelings causes personal distress. Whether you fit this medical diagnosis or not, your doctor can look for reasons that your sex drive isn't as high as you'd like and find ways to help.
In addition to asking you questions about your medical and sexual history, your doctor may also:
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.
Talking with a sex therapist or counselor skilled in addressing sexual concerns can help with low sex drive. Therapy often includes education about sexual response and techniques. Your therapist or counselor likely will provide recommendations for reading materials or couples' exercises. Couples counseling that addresses relationship issues may also help increase feelings of intimacy and desire.
Your doctor will want to review the medications you're already taking, to see if any of them tend to cause sexual side effects. For example, antidepressants such as paroxetine (Paxil) and fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) may lower sex drive. Switching to bupropion (Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL) — a different type of antidepressant — usually improves sex drive and is sometimes prescribed for women with sexual interest/arousal disorder.
Along with counseling, your doctor may prescribe a medication to boost your libido. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved options for premenopausal women include:
These medications aren't FDA-approved for use in postmenopausal women.
Dryness or shrinking of the vagina, one of the hallmark signs of genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM), might make sex uncomfortable and, in turn, reduce your desire. Certain hormone medications that aim to relieve GSM symptoms could help make sex more comfortable. And being more comfortable during sex may improve your desire.
Possible hormone therapies include:
Healthy lifestyle changes can make a big difference in your desire for sex:
Talking about low sex drive with a doctor may be difficult for some women. So some women may turn to over-the-counter herbal supplements. However, the FDA doesn't regulate such products, and in many cases, they haven't been well-studied. Herbal supplements can have side effects or interact with other medications you may be taking. Always talk with a doctor before using them.
One herbal supplement blend is called Avlimil. This product has estrogen-like effects on the body. While estrogen may boost your sex drive, it may also fuel the growth of certain breast cancers.
Another choice is a botanical massage oil called Zestra. It's applied to the clitoris, labia and vagina. One small study found that Zestra increased arousal and pleasure when compared with a placebo oil. The only reported side effect was mild burning in the genital area.
Low sex drive can be very difficult for you and your partner. It's natural to feel frustrated or sad if you aren't able to be as sexy and romantic as you want — or you used to be.
At the same time, low sex drive can make your partner feel rejected, which can lead to conflicts and strife. And this type of relationship turmoil can further reduce desire for sex.
It may help to remember that fluctuations in the sex drive are a normal part of every relationship and every stage of life. Try not to focus all of your attention on sex. Instead, spend some time nurturing yourself and your relationship.
Go for a long walk. Get a little extra sleep. Kiss your partner goodbye before you head out the door. Make a date night at your favorite restaurant. Feeling good about yourself and your partner can actually be the best foreplay.
Primary care doctors and gynecologists often ask 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 broach the subject, bring it up. You may feel embarrassed to talk about sex with your doctor, but this topic is perfectly appropriate. In fact, your sexual satisfaction is a vital part of your overall health and well-being.
To prepare for this discussion with your doctor:
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Your doctor will ask questions about the symptoms you're experiencing and assess your hormonal status. Questions your doctor may ask include: