Lots of things can impact your desire for sex: How much stress you are carrying. A relationship starting or ending. Feelings about your sexual partner. Feelings about yourself. Your hormone levels. Your age. The state of your overall well-being. Your past experiences. And more.
With this variety of factors at play, it’s not surprising that sexual desire, also known as libido, can change throughout life. Libido can vary quite a bit from person to person and can fluctuate within an individual.
Wanting to have sex less often than you may have in the past is common. Low desire is the most common sexual problem for women. Being distressed about a lack of sexual desire for more than six months may mean that you have hypoactive sexual desire disorder, which impacts about 10% of adult women.
If you are bothered that sex is low on your list of priorities, it doesn’t have to stay that way. A satisfying sex life is possible — and it is something you can and should discuss with a healthcare provider.
What are common causes of low libido?
Because sexual desire is linked with emotional intimacy or feeling close to someone, a lack of intimacy is a common cause of low libido. If your desire for sex is low but the emotional relationship with your partner is good, there might be other factors influencing your sexual desire, including:
- Diseases and medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, neurological disease, cancer, diabetes and pain with sex.
- Hormone-related changes during menopause, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Stress, depression and anxiety.
- Fatigue and exhaustion.
- Poor self-esteem and body image.
- Past abuse or negative sexual experiences.
- Use of street drugs, smoking and excessive drinking.
- Prescribed medications for mood disorders, blood pressure and other conditions.
Does Adderall lower libido?
Another medication that can decrease interest in sex is dextroamphetamine and amphetamine (Adderall, Adderall XR, Mydayis), which is used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Although lower libido is a possible side effect, it isn’t known how often this happens.
Does birth control lower libido?
Birth control methods that influence your hormones have the potential to impact your desire for sex or your sex life, but whether the effect is positive or negative varies. For example, a recent review of research reported that using a vaginal ring can initially have a positive effect on your sex life. Oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, may lower libido in some women.
Is there treatment for low libido in women?
No matter the cause, there may be options for women to boost feelings of sexual desire. Speaking with your healthcare provider can help you determine the best options for you and your needs.
You might discuss:
- Talk therapy — for you, or you and your partner, possibly with a sex therapist.
- Hormone therapy to address physical symptoms that might diminish your interest in sex.
- Practicing nonphysical intimacy with a partner to strengthen your emotional connection.
- Adjusting or stopping medications that may be impacting your libido.
Are there medications for low libido?
Yes, but usually they aren’t used alone — instead they are used in addition to another treatment option.
If you haven’t gone through menopause, there are two FDA-approved medications to help increase libido. One is a daily pill and the other is a self-administered injection before you plan to have sex.
If you have gone through menopause, testosterone hormone therapy might be prescribed to get you feeling in the mood. However, testosterone isn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration for sexual dysfunction in women, and its use in women is controversial.
Additionally, the antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL) is sometimes prescribed to women with sexual concerns, though it’s not FDA-approved for this purpose.
Can you take supplements for low libido?
It might be tempting to try an over-the-counter herbal supplement on your own. Avlimil is an herbal supplement blend that claims to rev up your sexual drive. Zestra is a botanical massage oil that claims to help increase feeling of arousal.
While these examples might sound great, it’s important to remember that herbal supplements:
- Aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Can interact with other medications you are taking.
- Might come with side effects.
Speaking of those side effects, Avlimil has been linked to the growth of some breast cancers. Zestra might cause a burning sensation in the genital area. That’s why it really is best to start with your healthcare provider, rather than going the do-it-yourself route.
What are some tips for starting a conversation about low libido?
Your sexual quality of life and sexual health, including libido, are important components of your overall well-being. These are things you can and should discuss with your healthcare provider. But raising the topic of sexual desire during an appointment might feel scary, awkward, uncomfortable and easier to just avoid.
But sexual problems like low libido may not go away if you don’t address them. Ignoring your concerns over a lack of desire to have sex or think about sex can negatively impact your emotional health and your relationships.
During a routine medical visit, a primary care doctor or a gynecologist may ask you about sex. But if they don’t, you can bring it up. Start by saying something like, “I want to be sure we have time to talk about my sexual health during this visit,” or “I’m concerned about my sex life — can we talk about it?”
You might find it helpful to do a bit of preparation before this conversation. Bring notes about what you’ve been experiencing and how often. Write down your questions ahead of time so that if you get nervous or flustered during an appointment, you can refer to your notes.
With 4 in 10 women experiencing problems with sex at some point, you aren’t alone. Your healthcare team is a great place to start addressing these problems. They may refer you to a health professional who specializes in sexual health concerns. In addition, the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health website allows you to look for health professionals in your area.
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