If you’re experiencing low libido, fear not … you’re not alone! In a recent U.S. study of more than 2,000 women between the ages of 30 and 70, more than a third had low sexual desire. It’s one of the most common concerns we hear from our patients. And it’s no wonder: As women navigate their middle years, they often find themselves deep into a long-term relationship, a career, raising teens, and taking care of aging relatives.
All of these situations can cause stress, which can have a negative effect on your sex life. And that’s just for starters.
The following factors can also suppress sexual desire:
- hormonal contraceptives
- antidepressants and other medications
- underactive thyroid or adrenal glands
- iron-deficiency anemia
- bladder problems
- negative self-image
To make matters worse, natural hormonal changes that take place as we age can cause sexual desire to fall as we get older. Women are two to three times more likely than men to experience this. And then there’s menopause: when you stop having your period, you no longer experience those revved-up days before and after ovulation.
Ways to offset a reduction in sexual desire
Here are a few ways that women can compensate for a lower sex drive:
Get in the mood. Spend more time on foreplay, massage and oral sex.
Counseling. If you feel your relationship has hit a rough patch, and sex – or lack of it – is a part of the problem, consider short-term couples counseling.
Lubricate. If dryness is an issue, use a water-based lubricant. You can also ask your healthcare provider about prescription medications to fight dryness: There are oral drugs available, as well as vaginal creams, which have fewer side effects than oral hormones.
Take care of yourself. Making healthy changes to your diet, exercise and sleep can help boost your libido.
Review your current medications. If you’re taking a drug that may reduce sexual desire, there may be an alternative that you can try.
Try a different hormonal contraceptive. Thirty percent of women who change hormonal contraceptives notice an increase in their sex drive.
Hormone replacement therapy. Although hormone replacement therapy doesn’t rekindle desire for most women, it can ease hot flashes and other symptoms that leave you feeling not-so-sexy.
Prescription drugs. It hardly seems fair that there’s no Viagra-type drug to offer women. But two drugs are in the trial stage – they’re called Lybrido and Lybridos. If the clinical trials are successful and the drugs are approved, they may be available in some markets by 2016. In the meantime, testosterone is available by prescription. And if your low libido is stress-related, some antidepressants can help to offset a problem that’s suppressing your libido. Discuss this with your healthcare provider, though, because some antidepressants reduce libido.
Take a break from hormonal contraceptives. If you leave your pills on the shelf, your ovaries will start producing progesterone again. However, you’ll need a backup form of birth control.
What comes next?
After reading about all these different approaches, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed. After all, these potential solutions range from medical to counseling to lifestyle changes. Your situation may call for several approaches. Contact your healthcare provider to discuss the best plan for you.
Additional information on low libido in women
We often refer patients to The Medical Center for Female Sexuality, headquartered in Purchase, New York. Their website is an excellent resource for obtaining more information on this condition.
The following websites also provide information on low female libido:
About the practice
Dr. John Garofalo, M.D., is a gynecologist located in Fairfield County, Connecticut. He has more than 20 years of practice and surgical experience covering many facets of obstetrics and gynecology.
Laury Berwitt is a nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Laury has a passion for providing quality women’s health care in a safe and comfortable manner by creating a trusting patient-practitioner relationship. She has been in practice for 10 years, caring for women of all ages.
For more information, go to www.garofaloobgyn.com. John Garofalo, MD and Laury Berkwitt, APRN can be reached for personal consultations by calling 203.855.3535.