5 Surprising things you never knew about libido

There are many things that can affect your desire. The good news is that most issues that lead to us not wanting sex can be overcome.

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There are many things that can affect your desire. The good news is that most issues that lead to us not wanting sex can be overcome.

You’re depressed, menopausal, maybe hormonal, or perhaps your relationship has hit a rocky patch. There are so many reasons a woman’s libido can disappear – and most experts would agree that a woman’s sex drive is far more complex to fix than a man’s. “Our research on women with libido issues found a persistent theme – that it was badly impacting their life,” says Professor Susan Davis, endocrinologist and women’s health researcher at Monash University.

“They were worried their lack of interest would destroy their marriage. They didn’t feel like the same person anymore. They wanted treatment and somebody to fix it.” While it might take some investigation, but with the right help, you can improve your desire dramatically – and have a happier and more satisfying relationship to boot. Here, our experts reveal some fascinating facts on libido, and hopefully provide you with a few solutions, too.


And lack of connection

“Your beliefs about sex – what is ‘normal’, ‘proper’, ‘expected’ or even ‘age-appropriate’ – can alter your sex drive. How comfortable are you with sex? Are there certain sexual acts you would never perform and why? Can you talk about sex openly, and ask for what you want in bed? Your attitude towards sex before and after marriage, and pre- or post-children, affects your sexual behaviour.

Has sex become a chore or too routine for your liking? Do you long for more time for romance? Are you able to attain orgasms consistently, or persistently feel pressured to have one? What would make sex better for you? Have you discovered the real issue behind your lack of sex now? Communicate honestly with your partner, and ask for support.

You may need to negotiate or compromise on what you are willing to do sexually. You are the other 50 per cent in the relationship, and you can make sex better by implementing some changes. Honestly explore what would make sex better for you, and own your sexuality.” - Dr Martha Tara Lee, Clinical Sexologist, Eros Coaching Pte. Ltd and author of Love Sex and Everything In Between.


“The contraceptive pill may reduce libido because of its androgen suppressing effect. The estrogen in the pill will reduce the levels of free available male hormones and it is believed that libido is related to male hormone levels. However, for some women it improves their sex life because of the loss of fear of an unplanned pregnancy and less painful and lighter periods.” - Associate Professor Yong Tze Tein, senior consultant, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, SGH.


Affects men, too

“In men, common causes of loss of libido include sexual problems like difficulties initiating and sustaining an erection, problems with rapid ejaculation, low testosterone, psychological and psychiatric causes (anxiety, depression, alcoholism, other mood disorders) and side effects of medications (antidepressants, blood pressure medications). Relationship problems can certainly affect the libido of both men and women.” - Associate Professor Ng Beng Yeong, senior consultant, Department of Psychiatry, SGH.


Can help

“Plenty of women in good relationships tell me nothing’s changed, but it’s like ‘a light’s gone out’. They say, “I never think about sex. I’d rather go to bed and read a book.’ Similarly older women who suddenly find themselves single and then find a new partner say, ‘It was fabulous for the first six to eight weeks, but now I don’t have the response I used to’. In both cases, it’s hormonal.

Testosterone starts falling beyond the age of 35, so by the time a woman is in her 50s she has about half the testosterone she once had – and our studies show it significantly affects sexual function and libido. It’s an important hormone for women and a little can do wonders for libido. We mostly prescribe a transdermal cream which is applied to the skin daily – generally somewhere on your lower body. We occasionally use testosterone implants, which are small pellets under the skin, but not often.” - Professor Susan Davis, endocrinologist and women’s health researcher from Monash University, Vic.


Can have a negative impact

“Sexual difficulties when you’re on antidepressants are far more common than experts initially thought, particularly on second generation SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). More than 50 per cent of women taking them may experience side effects such as low desire, a lack of lubrication, difficulty maintaining arousal or an inability to climax.

Working towards a long-term treatment strategy may involve talking to your GP about a different drug, exploring opportunities to reduce the drug or taking drug holidays where you stop taking the medication for one to two days under the supervision of your doctor, so your sexual feelings come back. For women in our study on long-term medication, acceptance-based strategies such as mindfulness were commonly used to cope. Couple’s therapy can also help in exploring ways to improve your sex life.”- Catherine O’Mullan, academic from the Department of Sexology, Curtin University, WA.