After a stressful day at work you’re feeling irritated, worn out, and all you’re dreaming of is getting home and putting your feet up. The last thing on your mind is sex. We’ve all been there.
Dr A Aka, Consultant Gynaecologist here at The Gynae Centre, explains: ‘Although loss of sex drive is an issue for men, it is more commonly seen women. In fact, it’s much more common than many people realise. But, that doesn’t mean you need to put up with it. It’s normal for one’s sex drive to fluctuate throughout the month to some degree, but it does affect each woman differently.
Some may experience a lack of sex drive for a short period of time, whereas others may have it for longer, and struggle with low libido more frequently. Desire for sex is very complex and there are many reasons you may be experiencing this. Whilst often linked to relationship or lifestyle issues, unexpected persistent loss of sex drive can indicate underlying physical issues.’
What are the symptoms of low libido?
The symptoms of a low libido include:
- Lack of desire
- Anxiety performing sexual activities
- Low level of interest in sex
Does medication affect libido?
Once it has been established that you have a loss of libido it’s important to find out what’s the cause of the problem.
Medication comes with many side effects, and surprisingly, it could be that you are taking a certain medication that is having an influence on your sex drive.
‘I see patients who are taking certain prescription drugs which can affect it. Particularly SSRI antidepressants. Hormonal contraceptives, in particular the combined pill, ring patch, and progesterone-only pill can have an impact. If this is the cause, an alternative form of contraception may be recommended.’ advises Dr Aka.
Hormones and libido
It is normal for the libido to rise and fall during the month as women’s bodies are constantly changing due to hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle.
However, they can also be influenced by pregnancy and breastfeeding. Some patients notice a nosedive in sex drive during the first and third trimesters due to hormone changes that are triggered by pregnancy – sensitive breasts, digestive issues, stress and exhaustion can all play a part. It’s also common for women breastfeeding to feel like this. Breastfeeding lowers estrogen levels in the body – the main hormone which keeps you ‘revved up’ so to speak, and the body will also produce more prolactin which reduces desire.
As women get older menopause in particular can bring up issues with sex and it’s natural for sex drive to reduce. Just like with breastfeeding, the estrogen in the body lowers, meaning the vagina becomes less elastic, and not as well lubricated.
If you’ve had a hysterectomy this can lead to low testosterone levels in women and this is another hormone which can have an impact on sex drive.
Less commonly, issues with low libido could be an issue with an under-active thyroid where not enough hormones are created, slowing down sexual hormone production, but this can be treated with hormone medication.
Lifestyle and libido
Lifestyle factors are frequently a contributing factor in a lowered libido. With the busy lifestyles we lead exhaustion, drug use and alcohol intake can have an impact, as can relationship issues, especially if one partner wants sex more than the other as this can create a feeling of pressure.
Mental health plays a big part in how we feel. Self-esteem, body image and stress are all interlinked with sexual desire. If you’ve low self esteem and aren’t feeling good about yourself the last thing on your mind will be sex.
One of the main characteristics of depression is losing interest in everything, and that includes sex. You may find that activities you once enjoyed you no longer find pleasure in. This can be the case with many mental illnesses. And if you’re receiving treatment for depression, as mentioned above, the medication can affect your sex drive.
Stress and anxiety can have a considerable impact, and if you’re feeling stressed and anxious most of the time, this stress can affect your hormone levels. When you experience prolonged stress, cortisol, (also known as the stress hormone), may suppress testosterone and other hormones, making the thought of sex unappealing.
Dr Aka explains: ‘I’m seeing more and more women who experience pain during penetrative sex. This condition, called vaginismus, is where the muscles surrounding the vagina contract involuntarily. It can have a huge influence on a woman’s life and results in pain and difficulty having sex – even using fingers and tampons in severe cases. This can unconsciously cause the body to tense, which can lead to a cycle which is difficult to break. The brain unconsciously associates penetration with pain and so contracts. In some cases sex is impossible. Even though the basis is psychosomatic, physical interventions can help and at The Gynae Centre we treat vaginismus with Botox injections and dilators. We have a 90% success rate in women we treat for this condition.’
How can I increase my sex drive?
You can increase your sex drive by:
- Taking steps to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Finding ways to boost self confidence.
- Exercising to lift your mood and boost your libido.
- Cutting back on lifestyle habits like drugs and alcohol.
- Communicating with your partner and planning in time to be intimate and try new things.
See your gynaecologist or GP to ascertain whether the underlying issue could be medication, physical or psychological. If you are worried about your sex drive, it’s best to get help as soon as possible. We offer a discreet and confidential service in the heart of London and can refer to a very highly regarded Harley Street counsellor where required.
To book an initial consultation with a consultant gynaecologist at The Gynae Centre in central London, simply book online, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our friendly admin team who will be happy to answer any queries you may have. Call now on 020 7580 8090.