Women's Sexual Health
A woman’s sexual desire (libido) naturally fluctuates over the years. Highs and lows in libido can coincide with the beginning or ending of a relationship, and with major life changes such as pregnancy, menopause, or illness, and can greatly affect quality of life. There are many factors that contribute to a woman’s libido.
When looking at the physical causes of libido, it’s apparent that most fall under the umbrella of hormonal imbalance. Low libido is commonly accompanied by other symptoms of hormonal imbalance – insomnia, fatigue, night sweats, vaginal dryness, mood concerns, and foggy thinking. These symptoms can make daily life miserable and can also affect how a woman perceives herself. Some women say their symptoms make them “feel old and used up,” as if they are losing their womanhood. In other words: not very sexy.
Estrogen helps to maintain the health of the vaginal tissues as well as a woman’s interest in sex. Estrogen levels may drop during the transition to menopause, which can cause a double whammy – decreased interest in sex and drier vaginal tissues, resulting in painful or uncomfortable sex. At the same time, women may also experience a decrease in the hormone testosterone, which boosts sex drive in men and women alike.
In addition, many women experience a low libido before menopause, and it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with estrogen or testosterone levels. Women experiencing estrogen dominance due to low progesterone levels often complain of water retention, fibrocystic breasts, depression, and irregular/heavy periods, as well as a low libido. Progesterone supplementation goes a long way in addressing these symptoms and restoring a woman’s sex drive.
We all know that chronic stress is not good for us, but we may not realize its significant toll in depleting libido. The body interprets ongoing stress as life-threatening, so naturally, survival is prioritized ahead of reproduction or pleasure. Many women are worn out by balancing job, marriage, and caring for aging parents and young children. In essence, an exhausted woman does not have the energy for intimacy. Thus, it is also essential to test for adrenal dysfunction. (Encouraging her partner to help with the dishes, the laundry, the grocery shopping, and cleaning up after the kids is also an idea).
Testing for and treating hormone imbalance is important, but there are other reasons for low libido: medications (such as anti-depressants or blood pressure medicine), drug and alcohol abuse, or being overweight. Also, a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to a lackluster sex drive. Exercise will build energy and stamina, both elements of libido. Thus, it is important to talk to your doctor if you are struggling with low libido, to determine which issues might be a reality for you.