Women are two to three times more likely than men to be affected by a decline in sex drive as they age, but good news: It’s possible to get your libido back on track.
Libido, otherwise known as your sexual drive or desire, varies from woman to woman, and there is no right or wrong level. It is normal for desire to fluctuate because of physical or lifestyle changes, and while reduced sex drive becomes much more common later in life, women in their 30s and 40s experience it too. If your libido level worries you, there are a number of things you can do, including determining what seems to affect your libido, and trying strategies to deal with the slump.
WHAT CAUSES LOW LIBIDO?
Many factors can influence your libido, including your relationship, medications, general health, vaginal dryness that causes painful sex, and body image. It is important to address lifestyle, nutrition and relationship factors that may be contributing to your low libido. As well as medical conditions and the side effects of some medications, there are a number of other reasons for a decreased sex drive, including:
PERFORMANCE ANXIETY. Painful sex can make a person avoid sex out of fear that it could happen again.
FATIGUE. Feeling too tired for sex is a common issue.
LACK OF TIME AND PRIVACY. The demands of work and home life may not leave enough time for intimacy and sex.
FAMILIARITY. A couple’s desire for sex tends to lessen over time.
SEXUAL INCOMPATIBILITY. Sexual desire can be affected if a person constantly wants more sex than their spouse, or wants a type of sexual activity that their spouse is not comfortable with.
SEXUAL TURN-OFFS. Sexual attraction to your spouse may lessen if there are changes in their physical appearance, such as excessive weight gain.
DEPRESSION. It can cause tiredness, a lack of motivation, feeling sad and withdrawing from activities, including sex.
STRESS. Researchers have found that the presence of stress hormones can lessen sexual desire and response.
EXERCISE. Either too much or too little can cause a loss of sex drive.
TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCES. A history of sexual harassment, sexual abuse or rape, can lessen your own sexual desire.
MEDICATION. Antipsychotics, antidepressants, and recreational drugs may also have an effect on libido.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
First of all, don’t be concerned about when or how often others have sex. There is no “normal” when it comes to the frequency of sex. What’s important is whether you and your husband are happy with your level of sexual activity. If your libido level is very different from your husband’s, this may cause you distress, but it’s important to remember that just because one person in the relationship has a lower level of libido, this doesn’t mean there is something wrong with either person. It’s just that you are different. It is when the difference in libido is causing problems between you that you may need to seek help to manage the issue.
YOU CAN ALSO TRY:
• Consulting your doctor to rule out any medical conditions like endocrine disorders, and to address any chronic illness or long-term medication use, which may be contributing to low libido.
• Speaking to your doctor about hormonal treatment for low libido.
• Antidepressants. These may help depression-related low desire, although many of these medications can decrease sexual desire, at least initially.
• Sex therapy or counselling. When no medical cause for low libido is found, couples’ therapy is often recommended.
Sex therapy might be useful for couples who are dealing with emotional aspects of sexual and relationship difficulties.
HOW IT WORKS
A sex therapy consultation is similar to any other counselling session in that the sex therapist will talk and listen to you and your husband. The main difference is that the sex therapist is also specifically qualified to treat and manage sexual concerns and will also provide you with educational material, information, tips, suggestions and some homework tasks.
WHY IT’S USEFUL
Most sexual health concerns or relationship issues do not get better on their own. It requires some commitment from you, and the sex therapist or counsellor will guide you through the process, will motivate you and, most importantly, they are there for support when you need it.
Other Sexual Health Issues
Women can experience a number of sexual problems that affect libido. Here are some common issues, and how to resolve them
Dyspareunia, or painful sex, can results in a loss of interest in sex and relationship problems, and it can affect your mood. It’s a term used to describe pain before, during or after vaginal intercourse. Getting a diagnosis of what is causing the pain can help you identify the most effective treatments for you. How is it treated? Make an appointment to have a pelvic examination. This is a physical examination where your doctor will check for signs of infection, irritation or any anatomical problems.
Vaginismus, or vaginism, is an extremely distressing condition. It involves an involuntary spasm or a contraction of the muscles surrounding the entrance to the vagina, making penetration impossible or painful. For most women it happens completely unexpectedly, like an automatic reflex. How is it treated? Vaginismus does not get better on its own, but pelvic floor physiotherapy can often help the situation. Sexual counselling is also recommended, especially if psychological trauma or abuse could be a factor.
PELVIC INFLAMMATORY DISEASE
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries in women. PID is often caused by chlamydia, especially in women under 30 years of age. Other bacteria may also be involved, including normal vaginal bacteria and those that cause gonorrhea. How is it treated? Without treatment, PID can lead to serious problems like infertility, ectopic pregnancy and chronic pelvic pain. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat PID.
You Are Not Alone
Rarely or never sensing a desire to engage in sex is the most common sexual concern among women. It is estimated that approximately 30 to 40 per cent of women are affected by a low or absent sexual desire.
TEXT: BAUERSAYNDICATION.COM.AU / ADDITIONAL REPORTING: NATALYA MOLOK / PHOTO: 123RF.COM