Maybe you’re not having as much sex as you used to. That’s common. Last year, as social media use soared, sexual activity plummeted—and for various reasons: at-home schooling, stay-at-home orders, stress, the list goes on. But there’s a difference between not having sex because life got in the way and not having sex because you have zero desire. Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors (GSSAB) found that 26 to 43 percent of women worldwide say they experienced low sexual desire—making low libido in women way more common than in men.
Libido fluctuates, and while that is normal, consistent low libido warrants attention. Many women pass off low libido as an inevitable effect of aging, but that’s not the whole truth.
Just like a woman’s cycle, libido is a vital sign that most of us put on the back-burner. The reason may vary from hormone imbalances to prescription medication, and getting to the root is essential for healing. In this article, we’re diving into the low libido symptoms, reasons why you may be experiencing low libido and ways to fix it.
What is Chronic Low Libido & HSDD
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), also known as female sexual interest/arousal disorder, is a sexual dysfunction that causes women to have a lowered sex drive.
Before we get into the symptoms of low libido or HSDD, it’s important to note that it’s healthy for sexual desire to fluctuate, especially in women. Women’s hormones are constantly in flux, which means that being horny during ovulation compared to when you start your period makes sense.
An HSDD diagnosis comes in when someone experiences a lack of sexual desire for six or more months.
Low Libido Symptoms
- Little to no interest in sexual activity
- No interest in initiating sex
- No pleasure from sex
- No pleasurable sensations when genitals are stimulated
- Little to no sexual thoughts or fantasies
Causes of low libido have been connected to a list of both physical and emotional issues.
- Decreased estrogen (ovulation, high estrogen = high serotonin, happy chemical) or testosterone (horny hormone) levels
- Hormonal changes during or post-pregnancy
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Medications that affect sex drive (antidepressants, birth control, which we will go into more in-depth below)
- Coronary artery disease
- Perimenopause/postmenopause changes estrogen levels and reduces blood flow to the vagina
- Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem
- Trust issues with a sexual partner
- Sexual abuse
A premenopausal or postmenopausal woman may see a doctor about low libido. If low estrogen is causing your symptoms of HSDD, oftentimes, estrogen therapy may be recommended. This can look like a topical cream, suppository, or ring that releases estrogen in the vagina. They may also suggest an estrogen pill, which may come with side effects. There are natural ways to increase estrogen levels in the body that may be more appealing to you.
Medications that have been shown to boost sex drive in premeopausal women come with a list of side effects, including hypotension (low blood pressure), dizziness, fainting, nausea, headaches, and more.
What is Causing Your Low Libido
Ever noticed that when you are totally and completely overwhelmed and exhausted with life that you don’t feel like having sex? When we are stressed, we have less and less desire to get down and dirty. Reducing stress is key to keeping libido regular.
Practice stress-relieving techniques. This can look like taking a bath, setting time to be still and silent, doing a hobby you LOVE, practicing yin yoga, exercising daily (simple 30-minute walks will be a game-changer), getting out in nature. Make these practices non-negotiable. Getting more in touch with yourself and showing yourself love will make you more likely to be open to receiving love from others.
Women who take oral contraceptives may have decreased libido for two reasons.
First, when you take the pill, you don’t ovulate. During the 1-2 days when you ovulate, you are the horniest. A guarantee because your body is trying to get pregnant.
Second, the longer you take synthetic hormones, the lower your testosterone levels are. Testosterone is the hormone that fuels libido for humans. With lower and lower testosterone levels over a long period of time, means you become less and less horny. Author of Moody Bitches, Dr. Julie Holland, says that this is the dirty little secret of the pill: that it cuts your sexual response and desire. Not only does it make you less horny but also less capable of enjoying sex fully and even less interested in looking for a mate and evaluating if said mate is right for you!
Most antidepressants increase serotonin, our happy chemical. SSRIs and SNRIs make women especially less horny and harder to climax. Medications like Prozac, Lexapro, Zoloft, Effexor, Cymbalta make it take longer to have a sexual response. Managing mood without taking antidepressants will keep your libido in tip-top shape.
Animal studies have shown that SSRIs affect libido. The study gave rats or mice SSRIs and found that female mice do not flirt with male mice and instead keep to themselves. They don’t do the “come hither” posture where they stick their butts in the air. Currently, similar human studies are being done (not yet published) that show that women on antidepressants look at men differently and evaluate them differently—they spend less time looking at their face and rejecting potential mates because of their too-high serotonin levels from the antidepressants (1).
Maybe you’re bored with your partner after 20 years. This is completely normal. Try incorporating new positions, role-playing, or sex toys into your relationship to spice things up. Sometimes we need a change of scenery to get back into the swing of things.
How to Improve Libido
- Regular exercise, half rigorous
- Role play, different sex positions
- Avoid substances that affect sexual desire (endocrine-disrupting chemicals from conventional cleaning products, food, water, cosmetics, and processed food, alcohol, tobacco
- Stress-relieving practices
- Alone time to reconnect with yourself
- Get out in nature