When it comes to limited sex drive or low libido in women, what is considered normal varies greatly, especially across the lifespan. The desire for sex in women is impacted by physical, psychological, and lifestyle factors that may or may not cause a decrease in libido. In fact, women have desires that fluctuate naturally over time and are especially influenced by drastic life changes like pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. Outside of these life events, there are also medical reasons for a woman to experience a decrease in libido.
The following information is for women experiencing a disruptive decrease in sexual desire who may be concerned that the issue stems from a medical or psychological disorder that needs professional treatment. However, if you suspect your drop in sexual desire is of a temporary nature, it is still a good idea to speak to a medical professional to rule out other issues and get advice on how to make sound decisions for your sexual health. Never be afraid to reach out to a medical doctor for advice that contributes to improving your well-being. Professionals like the team at Arizona Gynecology Consultants are trained to help you determine the root causes of any sexual health problems and find appropriate solutions.
Is Low Libido in Women Normal?
Women are often assumed to have a much lower libido than their male counterparts. While it is normal for women to experience fluctuations in sexual desire over time due to the natural highs and lows of life, it isn’t fair to say that all women experience equally low libido. What is most important is for each woman to have a sex life that meets her standards and is enjoyable to the degree she desires.
When a woman is not satisfied with the current state of her sex life, her personal well-being and the well-being of her relationships tend to suffer. Thus, it is important for each woman to find her normal, maintain a satisfactory sex life and take care of any chronic health issues that may be contributing to her low libido. For that reason, if you are experiencing dissatisfaction with your libido, it can be considered outside the norm for you.
What Can Cause a Low Libido?
Many issues can arise that negatively impact a woman’s sexual desire. Each woman handles life events and stressors differently, so a major life change that affects one woman’s sexual health minimally could drastically affect another woman and diminish her sexual desire. This is why it is so important to refrain from comparing yourself to others—sexual desire is subjective. The subjectivity of sexual health means you will need a unique set of solutions to achieve a state of overall sexual wellness, and that is perfectly normal.
The causes of low libido vary from woman to woman, with some cases requiring a few simple lifestyle adjustments and others requiring more extensive therapeutic solutions. Understanding the most common causes of a low female sex drive can help shed light on any underlying issues. At the very least, developing an understanding of the causes of low libido may help you gain some information that can be used when speaking to a medical professional about your decreased libido.
Causes of a low sex drive in women include but are not limited to the following.
There is a range of physical factors and medications that can lead to a low sex drive in women:
- Medical disease or chronic health problems. Arthritis, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and neurological disease are all nonsexual issues that can cause a lowered libido.
- Sexual issues. Some women experience drops in their libido when sex is painful, or they have trouble reaching orgasm. These issues often cause dissatisfaction and reduce the desire for sex and intimacy.
- Reactions to medications. There are prescription drugs known to cause a drop in sex drive, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, a type of antidepressant.
- Counter-productive lifestyle practices. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, using street drugs, and smoking are all known to restrict blood flow, which can lead to a dip in sexual arousal.
- Surgical procedures. Any form of surgery, especially surgery involving the breasts or genitals, can negatively impact body image, the desire to have sex, and sexual function.
- Exhaustion and fatigue. Caring for young children, tending to an aging parent, or working long hours are examples of stressful events that contribute to a decreased sex drive. Fatigue stemming from surgery or chronic illness can also have this effect.
When a physical issue causes a drop in libido, it is best to identify the problem and take steps to adjust for an improvement in sexual satisfaction. Seeking professional help is especially helpful for finding safe solutions to overcome the physical causes of a low sex drive.
Fluctuations in hormone levels can reduce the desire for sex, especially in cases of menopause and issues with pregnancy and breastfeeding. When a woman’s estrogen levels drop, the body makes the transition to cease menses. When menopause sets in, many women become less interested in having sex due to vaginal dryness and painful sex resulting from low estrogen. Some women can and will still experience pleasurable sex during menopause, but others will experience a drop in libido.
A similar situation can occur during pregnancy. During and after pregnancy, a woman goes through several phases of hormonal changes that can dampen sexual desire. Many who decide to breastfeed will continue to have elevated levels of hormones that lower their estrogen production so significantly that it can cause a lowered libido.
A lack of sexual desire from hormonal fluctuations can be a drastic change for many women and their partners because a healthy sex drive is largely determined by hormonal balance. Many suspected hormonal issues can be discussed with your doctor and detected through saliva and blood tests. In cases where sexual desire is caused by hormonal shifts, women may find solutions, including dietary changes, exercise, hormonal therapy, or a combination of these methods.
Believe it or not, your mental state can impact your libido.
There are numerous ways poor mental health can cause sex drive to diminish, including:
- Mental health disorders like depression and anxiety
- Chronic stress from issues surrounding money, work, or family
- Body image disorders
- Low self-worth and self-esteem
- Trauma from sexual or physical abuse
- Negative sex experiences (past or present)
When psychological distress is at the root of low sex drive, solutions can take on both medical and psychotherapeutic forms. Depending on the situation, there may be a need for a combination approach where both medicine and therapy are required to help women manage the mental issue blocking their sexual desire. If you have an existing mental health diagnosis or suspect you may be suffering from poor mental health, speaking to your doctor can set you on the path to improved mental and sexual well-being.
Relationship or Marital Problems
Many women lose interest in sex and intimacy when they don’t feel an emotional connection to their partner or spouse. Romantic relationship problems can take a major toll on a woman’s sex drive and leave both partners feeling frustrated and dissatisfied with the relationship.
The decrease in sexual interest often results from longstanding issues that go unresolved, such as:
- Lacking an emotional connection to a partner or spouse
- Fights and arguments that lack resolution
- Poor communication between partners
- Trust Issues
When it comes to relationship issues, it is important to remember that sex (or lack thereof) affects both partners. In this way, a woman’s low sex drive can have serious consequences for a relationship if the issue goes untreated. If you want your relationship to thrive, addressing sexual health issues with the support of your partner can help you both cope with difficult periods. Talking over your concerns with your partner allows you both to grant one another grace and compassion.
Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder
In some cases, women with low sex drive receive a diagnosis of hypoactive sexual desire disorder or HSDD. HSDD leads many women to experience interpersonal distress and difficulty and can be caused by a combination of medical, psychiatric, or substance abuse problems. Women with HSDD often don’t feel desirable or have sexual desire for their partner. Unfortunately, while this presents issues for many couples, the phenomena of HSDD and its impact often go unaddressed and untreated.
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder, like other causes of low sex drive, can take a substantially negative toll on women’s quality of life. Therefore, it is an issue that researchers should study more thoroughly so they can understand and develop adequate solutions. Based on recent research, the recommended approach to treating HSDD is biopsychosocial, meaning that treatment focuses on healing the mind, body, and relationships to achieve better sexual health. Gynecologists and other sexual health professionals are often recruited to work in tandem with other clinicians to help women treat HSDD through complementary health approaches.
How Do You Treat Low Libido in Women?
Low sex drive in women is an issue that can stem from one or many of the aforementioned causes, each of which may or may not be treatable with patient care by a physician. Your sexual health is the result of the complex interactions between your physical, emotional, and relational well-being at any given time. Therefore, it must be assessed thoroughly to pinpoint any dysfunction. If the cause of your low libido requires medical treatment, it is best to reach out for help sooner rather than later to complete the proper exams and testing necessary to safely and effectively treat the issue.
Solutions can be medical, psychological, or sociological in nature.
If your libido is lower than you would desire and it causes you interpersonal distress, you should seek medical help. There are ways for physicians to assess your health to determine the cause of your decreased sex drive. Women who have medical reasons for low sex drive may find hormone therapy and lifestyle changes helpful in increasing their desire for intimacy.
Impaired mental health is a major risk factor for decreased sex drive in women and often contributes to their struggles to maintain a healthy sex life. Depression and anxiety are closely linked to low libido in women, as are the medications that treat these issues, like antidepressants and antipsychotics. In addition, depression triggered by living with a mental health disorder can lead to women experiencing sexual limitations and lowered libido. Treating reduced sex drive caused by a psychological disorder may require a medication change to medications that are considered sexually neutral. Medication should be administered in the lowest effective dosage to ensure the disorder is properly managed without having a negative impact on sexual health.
Once an effective medication has been prescribed, a form of psychological therapy is used to help address symptoms of the disorder, such as low self-esteem, low self-image, distracting thoughts, and issues regarding fear of physical sensations. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (MCBT) are two effective therapies for helping women overcome issues pertaining to arousal, libido, and sexual desire.
If your reduced libido is due to relationship issues or poor communication, you may try couples therapy to address the problem together with your partner. Some women report that the use of supportive therapy methods was more impactful on their mental health improvement than medications. They credit the benefits of learning to communicate changing sexual needs in healthier ways by improving their sex life with their partner.
You don’t have to allow your physical health, psychological health, or your romantic relationship to be negatively impacted by a low sex drive. If you want help, there are solutions available that can help you resume a satisfying sex life.
When Should You See a Doctor for Diminished Sex Drive?
The best time to seek medical help with sexual health issues is the moment you become concerned about your reduced or non-existent desire for sex. Sometimes, the solution to your problem lies in changing your current medication or taking actionable steps to treat an existing chronic medical condition like diabetes or elevated blood pressure.
Any time you feel distressed about a dip in your sex drive, you should seek the help of a professional who has experience helping women improve their sexual health. Getting a professional assessment will make it possible to receive medical treatment or even a referral to additional resources like sex therapy. Your medical doctor can help you reclaim your sexual comfort and connect you to additional helpful options.
Getting Help for a Low Sex Drive
If you are worried about your decreased sex drive and lack of sexual arousal, Arizona Gynecology Consultants has plenty of resources available to help you discover what lies behind the changes you’re experiencing. If you choose to consult with a physician, we will listen to your concerns and provide both help and compassion. Our team of trusted gynecologists is always willing to assist women on the journey to improved health and wellness.
You should not be ashamed to reach out for professional help with sexual health concerns. Contact us directly for Arizona Gynecology services and consultation.
Tessa has been a Phoenix resident for over 15 years. She graduated from Arizona State University with undergraduate degrees in both Nursing and Biology. She worked as a Labor and Delivery nurse at Banner University Medical Center, beginning her career in Women’s Health. She continued to grow her practice and expertise by earning her Doctorate in Nursing Practice.