What is low sex drive in women?
A woman’s sexual desire naturally fluctuates 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 antidepressants and anti-seizure medications also can cause low sex drive in women.
If you have a persistent or recurrent lack of interest in sex that causes you personal distress, you may have hypoactive sexual desire disorder — also referred to as female sexual interest/arousal disorder.
But you don’t have to meet this medical definition to seek help. If you are bothered by a low sex drive or decreased sexual desire, there are lifestyle changes and sex techniques that may put you in the mood more often. Some medications may offer promise as well.
How common is low sex drive in women?
Low sex drive in women is extremely common. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of low sex drive in women?
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, also known as desire discrepancy, 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 from woman to woman.
Some signs and symptoms that may indicate a low sex drive include a woman who:
- Has no interest in any type of sexual activity, including self-stimulation
- Doesn’t have sexual fantasies or thoughts, or only seldom has them
- Is bothered by her lack of sexual activity or fantasies
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes low sex drive in women?
A woman’s desire for sex is based on a complex interaction of many components affecting intimacy, including physical well-being, emotional well-being, experiences, beliefs, lifestyle and current relationship. If you’re experiencing a problem in any of these areas, it can affect your sexual desire.
A wide range of illnesses, physical changes and medications can cause a low sex drive, including:
- Sexual problems. If you experience pain during sex or an inability to orgasm, it can hamper your desire for sex.
- Medical diseases. Numerous nonsexual diseases can also affect desire for sex, including arthritis, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and neurological diseases.
- Many prescription medications — including some antidepressants and anti-seizure medications — are notorious libido killers.
- Lifestyle habits. A glass of wine may make you feel amorous, but too much alcohol can spoil your sex drive; the same is true of street drugs. And smoking decreases blood flow, which may dampen arousal.
- Any surgery, especially one related to your breasts or your genital tract, can affect your body image, sexual function and desire for sex.
- 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.
Changes in your hormone levels may alter your desire for sex. This can occur during:
- Estrogen levels drop during the transition to menopause. This can cause decreased interest in sex and dryer vaginal tissues, resulting in painful or uncomfortable sex. Although many women continue to have satisfying sex during menopause and beyond, some women experience a lagging libido during this hormonal change.
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding. Hormone changes during pregnancy, just after having a baby and during breast-feeding can put a damper on sexual desire. Of course, hormones aren’t the only factor affecting intimacy during these times. Fatigue, changes in body image, and the pressures of pregnancy or caring for a new baby can all contribute to changes in your sexual desire.
Your problems don’t have to be physical or biological to be real. There are many psychological causes of low sex drive, including:
- Mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression
- Stress, such as financial stress or work stress
- Poor body image
- Low self-esteem
- History of physical or sexual abuse
- Previous negative sexual experiences
- Relationship issues
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:
- Lack of connection with your partner
- Unresolved conflicts or fights
- Poor communication of sexual needs and preferences
- Infidelity or breach of trust
What increases my risk for low sex drive in women?
There are many risk factors for low sex drive in women, such as:
- Post-menopausal status owing to surgery: Women between the age of 20-49 years who are surgically post-menopausal (when both the ovaries and/or the uterus are removed prior to normal menopause) are at greatest risk of developing HSDD
- Surgery: Having recently had a surgery could pose a risk to having a satisfactory sex life
- Life-changing events such as cancer diagnosis or treatment
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is low sex drive in women diagnosed?
- Learn the complete medical history of a patient
- Do a pelvic exam to check for lubrication or its lack thereof, tender spots (if pain is experienced during intercourse), thinning of genital tissues, and other factors
- Check hormonal levels
- Check or recommend tests for diseases and conditions such as diabetes, liver abnormalities, overactive or underactive thyroid glands, and many other conditions
- Assess for emotional or psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress
How is low sex drive in women treated?
- Medication: If an anti-depressant medication is producing adverse sexual side effects, a physician may recommend a new class of medication
- Counseling: If a couple is experiencing relationship problems, therapy could be recommended for both. Additionally, therapists may help a woman explore and understand her sexuality by offering educational materials
- Systemic hormone therapy: Estrogen therapy could improve mood and increase sexual desire. However, this kind of treatment poses associated health risks
- Local hormone therapy: Topical ointments containing a combination of estrogen and progesterone may be recommended for increasing blood flow to the vagina and improve one’s sexual drive
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage low sex drive in women?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with low sex drive in women:
- Regular aerobic exercise and strength training can increase your stamina, improve your body image, elevate 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. If you and your partner are open to experimentation, sex toys and fantasy can help rekindle your sexual sizzle.
- Ditch bad habits. Smoking, illegal drugs and excess alcohol can all dampen sexual desire. Ditching these bad habits may help rev up your sexual desire as well as improve your overall health.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
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