Why do Women Lose their Sexual Desire?
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Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. The flame of sexual desire is reduced to a smoulder or seems to have fizzled out completely. Maybe this is causing you distress, or perhaps from where you are at the moment, you don’t really care. But what if you really do care? After all, marriage or partnership needs to be a 50/50 thing; a meeting each other half-way in the happiness stakes.
At different times in a woman’s life, certain very natural happenings can have a negative effect on the desire for sex, and this can cause misunderstandings and certain insecurities to arise between two people who set out as lovers but have found themselves behaving like two people sharing a house. Let’s take a look first at some of the reasons why libido takes a dive.
Physical Reasons for Low Libido in Women
Fluctuations in sex hormone levels are often responsible for varying sexual function and desire. This includes a drop in a woman’s testosterone levels. Here are some of the most usual physical causes of a lack of desire:
Time of the Month
For many women, the menstrual cycle has a marked effect on sexual response. Sometimes the condition known as premenstrual tension (PMT) is responsible for a temporary lack of desire, as is the time of bleeding, often due to period pain, abdominal bloating and heavy loss of blood.
In those times prior to the advent of the pill, and even now for those using other forms of contraception, this time in a woman’s menstrual cycle is referred to as the ‘safe period’. It may make conception less likely but is not totally foolproof, and certainly not the best experience for the majority of women because they simply do not feel like having sex. This is usually a very temporary state.
Pregnancy and Post Pregnancy
Pregnancy and childbirth do not always lead to low sexual desire, but in some cases they do. During pregnancy itself, there is often a fear that intercourse during the early months could trigger miscarriage and then in the later trimesters, it can be difficult and uncomfortable, so sex life is put on hold. The NHS line is that ‘It is perfectly safe to have sex during pregnancy unless your doctor or midwife has told you not to.’ More information on sex during pregnancy can be found here.
Once the baby arrives there is a need for huge amounts of attention to be lavished upon the tiny new human in your life. Sleep deprivation causes a slump in the desire to do anything other than make the most of what brief moments of peace so you can get some sleep. It is not unusual for women to feel less than eager for sex in the early months following birth. The NHS set out useful explanations and guidelines to help understand your feelings at this time.
Certain medical issues such as endometriosis (in premenopausal women), pelvic inflammatory disease, cancer of the womb, ovaries or cervix, prolapse of the uterus or very heavy periods are all reasons why hysterectomy may be performed. This is a major surgical procedure and should only be considered if all other options have been explored. It is very possible that hysterectomy could lead to early menopause but once a recovery from the procedure is complete there is no reason why it should in any way jeopardise the enjoyment of sexual activity.
As the years go by and your half-century approaches there will be those tell-tale symptoms which herald ‘the change’. During this time certain physical changes take place and various gynaecological events begin to manifest themselves. For some women, they creep up slowly and it all happens in a very subtle way, but for others, it can be a very trying time indeed.
Hormonal changes bring with them varying effects such as mood swings, an inability to get through the night without waking several times, and there are certain physical changes such as the thinning of the lining of the vaginal tract. This can cause dryness and lack of elasticity, making intercourse painful. There are other changes too during the years following the menopause. They may not be so overtly related that they are classified as symptoms, but they nevertheless may contribute to a diminished interest in sex.
One of the very common problems for post-menopausal women is that of pelvic organ prolapse. This may be caused by damage to muscle and soft tissue sustained during childbirth. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, many women over the age of fifty will have some symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse. They state that being overweight is one of the main causes of a weakened pelvic floor. Also, prolonged constipation or heavy lifting can add to the problem. It is usual to have surgery to correct prolapse.
In the years following menopause, hormones cease to give protection from the risk of heart disease, and falling oestrogen levels leave women of this age group just as vulnerable to cardiology risks as men. NHS Choices have issued guidelines for women to help minimise this problem:
- Have regular cholesterol and blood pressure checks
- Do not smoke
- Do more aerobic exercise such as walking and swimming
- Lose weight if necessary
- Drink only moderate amounts of alcohol
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Manage stress
The NHS stand on the use of HRT to protect against heart disease in post-menopausal women has now changed. They state that following new research, HRT is not heart-protective. In addition, they draw attention to the fact that taking HRT carries side effects.
Following surgery and treatment for breast cancer, there is often a loss of libido, in some cases for as long as two years following diagnosis. Even women who previously had a satisfactory sex drive, report suffering from low sexual desire following diagnosis, surgery and treatment. This can often be caused in part by the type of medication administered, but other issues such as body image and vaginal dryness (a side effect of certain medications, particularly aromatase inhibitors), are also factors. A frank discussion with your health care provider may help to alleviate concerns.
Inability to Reach Orgasm
This may not matter to some women, but for others, it can be a problem which eventually causes them to lose interest in sex. There are various reasons why women are unable to experience orgasm and research is currently being carried out to discover whether a condition which inhibits blood flow to the clitoris may be responsible for this problem. Other reasons are more psychological and can be addressed by a therapist.
Emotional Reasons for Low Libido in Women
Sexual problems are often the result of a lack of understanding of women’s health issues generally. This includes emotional problems and at long last mental health is recognised as being every bit as important as the physical side of things. Unfortunately, in the search for answers to the causes of female sexual dysfunction this fact can still be overlooked.
Sex therapy is extremely helpful but is not available on the NHS in all parts of the UK. However, Relate offer an excellent service, which is free. Here are some of the most frequently reported concerns:
The relationship itself may be struggling. There are many reasons why a woman may find it difficult to feel desire. It is vital that open and frank discussion takes place between sexual partners to iron out any misunderstanding and to understand exactly what both parties can do to make things work. Anger and resentment are two very strong emotions which are well known to cause a lack of sexual desire. For this reason, it is important to try to work out relationship problems if at all possible.
A Hectic and Stressful Life
Running a home with children to care for, probably a job as well, even a high-pressure career to pursue, all combine to make it difficult to switch off. So when those moments, which should be precious and pleasurable, present themselves, you might find that you are just too tired to even think of sex and the idea of conjuring up inventive ways to rekindle the old feelings seems just too much trouble. This temptation to side-step what is actually a vital part of your life could easily be the beginning of a chronic problem.
Family Planning Concerns
Birth control has always been an important factor in managing and alleviating the worry of an unwanted pregnancy. This is a concern that understandably can seriously inhibit the female sex drive. The pill has taken away much of this stress for most women but there are still many who are unable, for medical, religious or ethical reasons, to avail themselves of the peace of mind brought by this form of birth control.
Getting a Diagnosis
Whether the underlying cause of low libido in women stems from physical or emotional criteria, it is important to get a medical diagnosis. This can lead to getting clinical or therapeutic help for your problem and should definitely be the first step on the road to rejuvenating a side of your life which should bring great pleasure.
- Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) – It is quite possible that if you have gone for a significant time without sexual feelings that you may be suffering from HSDD. This diagnosis is usually arrived at following a pelvic examination where any physical causes can be detected or ruled out.
- Blood Tests – Your GP may take blood tests to establish whether you have anomalies in hormone levels. These tests will also establish or rule out such things as diabetes, thyroid problems, liver disorders and significantly raised cholesterol levels. It is vital to rule out any underlying medical condition before proceeding with either pharmaceutical or natural treatment for low libido.
- Medication – It is possible that if you are currently taking medication for such things as depression, the kind of drug you are taking could well be contributing to your lack of sex drive. Certain pharmaceutical antidepressants, such as paroxetine and fluoxetine drugs (marketed as Paxil, Prozac and Sarafem) are known to significantly lower sexual thoughts and feelings both for men and women. There are other types of drug available which can have a positive effect on the libido and are even prescribed to help HSDD.
- Physical Discomfort – Your GP may also check during a pelvic examination for physical causes of discomfort such as thinning of the lining of the vaginal tract and inflammation, possibly caused by excessive vaginal dryness.
- Therapy – It is possible that your problems could benefit from a course of therapy with a specialist to help you understand any emotional problems which could be contributing to the condition. There are many issues which can lead to a loss of libido, including low self-esteem, poor body image, possibly due to weight gain and lack of physical fitness. There may also be relationship problems which a sex therapist could help you deal with.
How to Increase Female Libido Instantly
Sometimes there is a need to be very up-front with letting your partner know what might help to enhance lovemaking. One of the most instant ways to revive a flagging libido is to introduce a little more spice and variety into the bedroom, or any other place that comes to mind. Don’t be afraid to experiment with sex toys during foreplay, or watch mild porn videos to stimulate desire.
Drugs which Increase Female Libido
There are certain pharmaceutical products which are prescribed for hypoactive sexual desire disorder. One of these is Flibanserin which was originally devised as an antidepressant but which was found to also have a positive effect on enhancing libido in women. This drug has been nicknamed the viagra for women, but you should be aware of its side effects. Read more.
It has been reported, following a study, that post-menopausal women with female sexual arousal disorder could benefit from taking Sildenafil, otherwise known as Viagra. Read more.
Natural Supplements to Increase Female Libido
There are various herbs, foods and plants which are known to have aphrodisiac potency and which help counteract a low sex drive. Some of the herbs have been used for centuries to help boost sexual desire in women and some have been clinically proven to be effective. If you wish to read more about natural help for sexuality issues, these supplements are well documented in the article Aphrodisiac for Women: Folklore or Fact.
The main herbal extracts which have been scientifically verified to have aphrodisiac properties are Damiana and Tribulus Terrestris. A natural supplement blend which contains these compounds, along with other anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients is Rose Gold, a supplement designed just for women in mind.
You can see from this article that there is a great deal of support for women who find themselves in a situation where feelings of desire and sexual arousal just don’t happen. Throughout all of the research and findings, one thing stands out, and that it the need to be honest with yourself, your partner and your doctor when it comes to establishing cause and treatment for this very common condition.
For free and confidential help, Relate is an excellent organisation with fully qualified and expertly trained therapists and counsellors.