LOW LIBIDO IN WOMEN
Female sexual dysfunction has been found to be more prevalent, more difficult to define, and more complex to treat than male sexual dysfunction (1). Of the many female sexual dysfunctions, low libido is one of the most common (2).
RISK FACTORS OF LOW LIBIDO IN WOMEN
There are a number of risk factors for low libido. Often these causes are multifactorial, including medications and medically diagnosed conditions. They can also be a combination of physical, emotional, cultural, or physiological reasons (3).
- 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, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and neurological diseases.
- Medications-Certain prescription drugs, especially antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), are known to lower the sex drive.
- Lifestyle habits-A glass of wine may put you in the mood, but too much alcohol can affect your sex drive. The same is true of street drugs. Also, smoking decreases blood flow, which may dull sexual arousal.
- 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 aging parents can contribute to low sex drive. Fatigue from illness or surgery also can play a role in a low sex drive.
For many women, emotional closeness is an essential prelude to sexual intimacy. 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:
- Lack of connection with your partner
- Unresolved conflicts or fights
- Poor communication of sexual needs and preferences
- Trust issues (3).
- Menopause-Estrogen levels drop during the transition to menopause. This can make you less interested in sex and cause dry vaginal tissues, resulting in painful or uncomfortable sex. 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 (3).
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF LOW LIBIDO IN WOMEN
Symptoms associated with low libido include the following:
- Vaginal dryness
- Pain during penetration
- Vaginal bleeding associated with sexual activity
- Reduced sexual responsiveness
- Impaired sexual arousal (4)
LOW LIBIDO IN WOMEN FACTS AND STATISTICS
- Studies show that approximately 40% of women will experience some type of sexual problem over the course of their lifetimes (2).
- Female sexual dysfunction generally is characterized as any sexual complaint or problem resulting from disorders of desire, arousal, orgasm, or sexual pain that causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulty (2).
MEDICAL TREATMENT OF LOW LIBIDO IN WOMEN
Treatment for low-libido can often include sex-education and counseling, medications, hormone therapy, vaginal lubricants, or the implementation of a healthy lifestyle (i.e. Exercising, eating healthy, emotional wellness, etc.) (5).
The most common form of treatment for low-libido is vaginal lubricants. Often the low sex-drive is more of an avoidance of sex due to it hurting and not being enjoyable. By incorporating a lubricant into sexual intercourse, women have found increased satisfaction, and thus an increase in sexual desire. However, vaginal lubricants aren’t always the only cause of low libido. As discussed earlier, low libido in women is often multifactorial. This is why healthcare professionals suggest implementing a healthy lifestyle change in addition to prescribing lubricants. A healthy lifestyle is one way to help women overcome low libido and a few examples include exercise, mindfulness, and yoga (2).
The “treatment” of implementing a healthy lifestyle is often based off of the 2001 United States Surgeon General Call to Action which defines sexual health in the following way: “Sexual health is inextricably bound to both physical and mental health. Just as physical and mental health problems can contribute to sexual dysfunction and diseases, those dysfunctions and diseases can contribute to physical and mental health problems. Sexual health is not limited to the absence of disease or dysfunction, nor is its importance confined to just the reproductive years (6).”
NATURAL WAYS TO SUPPORT HEALTHY LIBIDO
Practices to Support Healthy Libido:
- Exercise. Regular aerobic exercise and strength training can increase your stamina, improve your body image, lift your mood and boost your libido.
- Stress less. Finding a better way to cope with work stress, financial stress, and daily hassles can enhance your sex drive.
- Communicate with your partner. Couples who learn to communicate in an open, honest way usually maintain a stronger emotional connection, which can lead to better sex. Communicating about sex also is important. Talking about your likes and dislikes can set the stage for greater sexual intimacy.
- Set aside time for intimacy. Scheduling sex into your calendar may seem contrived and boring. But making intimacy a priority can help put your sex drive back on track.
- Add a little spice to your sex life. Try a different sexual position, a different time of day or a different location for sex. Ask your partner to spend more time on foreplay.
- Ditching bad habits. Smoking, illegal drugs and excess alcohol can all dampen your sex drive. Ditching these bad habits may help give your sex drive a boost and improve your overall health (5).
Natural Supplements That Support Healthy Libido:
- Damiana (9)
- Dong Quai (10)
- Shah M. Obesity and sexuality in women. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2009;36:347-360.
- Finley, N. (2017, November 09). Lifestyle Choices Can Augment Female Sexual Well-Being. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30283244/?i=13&from=low libido women
- Low sex drive in women. (2018, February 15). Accessed November 22, 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/low-sex-drive-in-women/symptoms-causes/syc-20374554
- Nicola, F. (2017). Lifestyle Choices Can Augment Female Sexual Well-Being. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine,12(1), 38-41.
- Low sex drive in women. (2018, February 15). Accessed November 20, 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/low-sex-drive-in-women/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20374561
- Office of the Surgeon General (US); Office of Population Affairs (US). The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior. Rockville (MD): Office of the Surgeon General (US); 2001 Jul. IV. Risk and Protective Factors for Sexual Health. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK44215/
- Giugliano F, Maiorino MI, Di Palo C, et al. Adherence to Mediterranean diet and sexual function in women with type 2 diabetes. J Sex Med. 2010;7:1883-1890
- Lorenz TA, Meston CM. Acute exercise improves physical sexual arousal in women taking antidepressants. Ann Behav Med. 2012;43:352-361.
- Damiana: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. Accessed November 22, 2018. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-703/damiana
- Dong Quai Root | Dong Quai Tea | Dong Quai Benefits | Dr. Weil. (2017, June 20). Accessed November 25, 2018. https://www.drweil.com/vitamins-supplements-herbs/herbs/dong-quai/
- Am J Lifestyle Med. 2017 Nov 9;12(1):38-41. doi: 10.1177/1559827617740823. eCollection 2018 Jan-Feb.