While most of us are familiar with ads targeted to male baby boomers experiencing "Low-T," female libido - or a lack of it - has received considerably less attention.
Although some women experience a lifelong history of low libido, others who once looked forward to sex notice a decline in interest occurring during specific phases of their menstrual cycle.
Menopause, perimenopause, and the use of certain medications including birth control pills, beta-blockers, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are used to treat depression, can reduce a woman’s sex drive.
Even without SSRI treatment, depression itself can reduce or eliminate desire, and treatment with other types of antidepressants can sometimes help.
Testosterone May Help Enhance Female Sex DriveA recent study revealed a benefit for testosterone-use in women undergoing treatment with SSRIs or SNRIs (serotonin noradrenalin reuptake inhibitors).1
Although sexual self-rating scale scores were no different at the end of the study between the placebo group and women taking testosterone, more sexual satisfaction was reported in the latter.1
Estradiol is Necessary for a Healthy Sex DriveWhile testosterone has long been associated with sexual interest, a recent trial re-emphasizes the importance of estradiol.2
A study linked the peak of estradiol levels that occurs at the midpoint of a woman’s menstrual cycle with the highest level of sexual desire. The authors of the study did not find significant effects for testosterone. Estradiol can also help reduce vaginal dryness which can impact sexual desire due to pain or discomfort.
Interestingly, a study in mice recently found that pain significantly reduced sexual motivation in female mice, but not in males, which could provide a basis for the "Not tonight, dear; I have a headache," response historically attributed to women.3
Restoring hormones that decline with age is beneficial to the mind and body, and essential to the sense of well-being that allows desire to unfold. Along with this, the standard recommendations to eat properly, exercise, and reduce stress can go a long way toward improving a woman’s sex drive.
BHRT Can Reawaken Sexual InterestThe initiation of hormone replacement during menopause often results in the reawakening of sexual interest. Evaluation by a specialist in hormone therapy, including blood testing for hormone levels, is essential to receive the right hormones at the right dose.
Over-the-counter hormones can also help. Readily available without a prescription, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and pregnenolone act as precursors to testosterone and estradiol, which begin to decline in early menopause, and can help boost their levels.
While bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) can be a lifesaver for many women, some may not be able to use these therapies due to hormone-related cancers or other conditions. For these women, specific plant extracts may help.
Cordyceps and Maca Support Sexual HealthCordyceps is a mushroom extract that supports sex hormone levels and promotes their downstream flow. The herb maca promotes libido and sexual pleasure.
In a crossover study of postmenopausal women, 3.5 grams of maca taken daily for 6 weeks reduced sexual dysfunction, independent of any hormone-like actions.4
A Good Relationship Goes a Long WayThe most important sexual organ is the … brain. The importance of a good relationship with your partner and the development of effective conflict resolution skills cannot be ignored. Let's face it - longstanding anger and resentment can be major libido-killers.
Still Not in the Mood? See your DoctorKeep in mind that libido is not the same for everyone. What is satisfactory to you and your partner may be different for other couples.
Women are advised to consult with their doctors if they find low desire to be problematic, as the condition could be a side effect of certain medications or be related to specific diseases or psychological problems.
- J Sex Med. 2014 Mar;11(3):831-9.
- Horm Behav. 2013 Apr;63(4):636-45.
- J Neurosci. 2014 Apr 23;34(17):5747-53.
- Menopause. 2008 Nov-Dec;15(6):1157-62.
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