It’s often said that the most important sexual organ is ‘between the ears’. It’s little wonder then that all kinds of events and emotions can interfere with our sex lives. Libido is something that can go up or down depending on how we feel. Both medical and emotional factors can influence our sex drive and a recent survey found that 20% of women said they were often too exhausted for any raunchiness. Financial worries, children and work were also listed as passion-wreckers.
Fortunately, for many a lack of sex drive is only temporary. Some will get over it by themselves, others may require medical or psychosexual advice. There aren’t any quick fixes, but with help it should be possible to achieve a return to a normal libido.
What causes lack of sex drive in women?
There are many factors that can cause a loss of interest in sex. These can be physiological, hormonal and psychological. Depression, medication, tiredness, drinking too much, grief, sexual boredom, pressure from work, are just some. Another common cause is post-baby ‘coolness’ - a loss of libido after childbirth which may be linked to hormonal changes.
Women (and men) may also lose some interest in sex as they get older due to diminishing levels of sex hormones. As women approach the menopause levels of oestrogen can start to fall which can affect libido.
How is the condition treated?
How the condition is treated will depend very much on the cause. Relationship problems are one of the most common causes of loss of libido. In such cases, psychosexual counselling may be recommended (either arranged privately, through an organisation such as Relate, or via your GP). The counsellor will allow you and your partner to discuss any sexual or emotional issues that may be contributing to the problem.
If the dip in sex drive is due to depression a GP may recommend antidepressants or psychological therapy. It’s worth noting that sometimes a low libido is a side effect of some anti-depressants. Other drugs can also affect libido such as blood pressure tablets. If you think there’s an issue talk to your GP about switching meds.
Occasionally a low libido is caused by an underactive thyroid - if this is diagnosed the condition can easily be treated by taking hormone replacement tablets.
There are also a range of hormonal treatments that you can discuss with your GP aimed at raising a flagging libido. Oestrogen may be offered delivered by pill, patch or gel. This can help if your sex drive has faltered due to hormonal changes caused for example by the menopause or breastfeeding. Smaller doses of oestrogen can also be given in the form of a vaginal cream or slow-releasing suppository or ring placed in the vagina. This reduces vaginal dryness and increases blood flow to the vagina making sex more enjoyable.
Sometimes testosterone is given to women with a low sex drive who have had their ovaries removed or following the menopause. But side-effects can include increased hair, acne, deepening of the voice and enlargement of the clitoris.
Doctors also occasionally prescribe erectile dysfunction drugs to women who have difficulty with arousal to increase blood flow to the genitals.
Alternative remedies & self-help:
- Relaxation and good sleep - both are key to elevating sex drive. Yoga or tai chi are good ways of relaxing the body and the mind. While regular exercise can increase your chances of sleeping well at night.
- The herb ginkgo biloba is often cited as a libido-booster. It’s said to improve circulation and so not surprisingly is sometimes used as a natural remedy by men with erectile dysfunction. Women may benefit because it is said to improve blood flow to the female sex organs.
- Ginseng is another natural remedy popularly said to enhance libido. It is more often taken to raise energy levels but seeing as tiredness is a major reason for not having sex, it is not difficult to see why this might work.
- As with most herbal treatments more research is needed to ascertain whether these alternative suggestions are effective and safe.