In a nutshell:
- An official name for women’s low sex drive is “Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder”
- In many cases the loss of desire has a clear starting point.
- Hormonal imbalances or taking the Pill can lead to the loss of interest in sex.
- Low sex drive within a few months after childbirth is very common.
- Changes related to menopause can have a negative effect on women’s libido.
- Constant stress and fatigue manifest in the body as low desire.
- Relationship problems contribute to the loss of sex drive.
What’s Low Sex Drive?
An official diagnosis, used by the American Psychiatric Association, is “Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder”. What does this mean? From a medical point of view a woman needs to have had at least three of the following problems over six months or longer:
- No interest in sexual activity.
- She doesn’t think about sex and doesn’t have fantasies.
- The woman doesn’t initiate intimacy and when her partner proposes something, she says no.
- Sexual activity is not pleasurable or exciting for her on most occasions (over 75% the time).
- She shows no excitement when confronted with erotic materials, like films, erotic novels etc.
- She doesn’t feel much in sexual situations on most occasions (over 75% of the time).
Note that it’s not always a complete loss of interest or excitement. Also a significant reduction counts as a symptom. What you need to do is compare what was and what is. How could it look like in practice? Women who come to me for help with low libido, tell me such things as:
“I could live without sex”.
“I only agree to do it because he wants to”.
“When he touches me, I don’t feel anything”.
“I don’t even want to masturbate”.
“Sex feels like a household chore”.
My clients are worried that they are frigid and will never get their sex drive back. I want to give you a bit of hope here. In the majority of cases it is possible to increase your libido and have fun in bed again. Remember my motto – in sex there is always hope.
What Causes the Loss of Sex Drive?
Women’s desire is so complex that it’s not possible to give a general answer to the question “why am I not interested in intimacy anymore”. Every woman is different, and you need to look into your own history to get to the root of your problems.
Sex therapists usually look at several common causes of low sex drive as a starting point:
- hormonal imbalance or changes
- painful sex
- medication affecting libido levels
- taking the pill
- pregnancy and postpartum
- stress and fatigue
- depression and anxiety
- relationship problems
In addition, while so many of low sex drive cases have a clear starting point – for example menopause or childbirth – there are women who lose their sexual interest gradually.
Often women lose their desire due to a mix of different reasons. That’s why this is such a complicated issue to treat. We need to approach it on so many levels. I know it may sound scary but hear me out.
This is your chance. Chance to give your sexuality the attention it deserves. Chance to untangle the knots that took years to develop. It may take some time, but you will be so happy you did it.
Is Women’s Desire Hormone-Related?
The short answer to the question about libido and hormones is yes. For women, everything is hormone related. We are cyclical. It’s in our nature. We go through many hormonal stages in life:
- childhood when our sex hormones are more or less asleep
- puberty when everything bursts open, and hormones rule your life
- time of fertile cycles and for some women the hormonal changes of pregnancy
- perimenopause when the whole machinery is slowing down and changing gears
- time after menopause when you function differently
Looking at things from that perspective, the periods of life where your libido should be the highest are puberty and your reproductive years. If only it were so easy!
If we assumed high desire was Mother Nature’s trick to get us pregnant, how come some women get horny when expecting a baby? Hormones do not explain the phenomenon of post-menopausal women who discover (or rediscover the joys of sex).
Women’s sex drive changes on two main levels. First, it will evolve over long periods Second, it changes monthly, in each menstrual cycle. Typically, women feel hornier in the first part of their cycle leading up to and including ovulation. This is the time when we can get pregnant. No wonder we’re more interested in mating!
Let’s take a look at two main life changes that can cause your libido to drop below zero.
Low Sex Drive After Baby
Many people believe that having children is the end of a happy sex life. Look at the Internet memes, making fun of exhausted parents. For some moms-to-be the drop in libido begins already in the pregnancy. Click here to read more on my blog. For others things begin to spiral down after the baby comes.
Research shows that most couples resume sexual activity within four months after childbirth. The percentage of women complaining of low libido decreases over time. Does that imply that the loss of desire is temporary? Well, yes and no. Changes that happen in your sex life after becoming a mother may have lifelong consequences. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Many new moms lose interest in sex for a few months. It’s how nature intended it in the times before contraception. Breastfeeding induces the production of hormone prolactin. That and the fact that feeding the baby on demand delays the return of ovulation helps women avoid getting pregnant again too soon. According to experts, women need at least a year to recover from pregnancy and labor and be fit for another round.
The trick with lost libido after baby is that if you miss that moment to kickstart your intimacy, your desire can fall into deep sleep. And the longer you wait, the harder it may be to waken it up.
Contraception May Affect Your Libido
Who would have thought? The Pill, invented to help women enjoy sex without worrying about pregnancy, can cause low sex drive. So ironic!
The loss of sexual interest after hormonal contraceptives is not as common as we think. Studies suggest that only certain types of Pills, for example ones with a small amount of estrogen, can lead to low libido.
Hormonal contraception takes a bit of getting used to and sometimes a bit of trial and error to find the right one. Other side effects that some women have can also reduce your readiness to get frisky:
- mood swings
- vaginal dryness
- spotting between periods.
If these don’t go away after three months, talk to your healthcare provider.
The Pill is not the only medication that can mess with your sex drive. There’s lots of them. Just read the patient brochures.
A common culprit here is antidepressants. Same as with hormones, it may take some time and patience to get the right type and dose. If you feel you completely lost your libido, talk to your therapist or psychiatrist about it.
Do Women Lose Their Sex Drive After Menopause?
From a physiological point of view, women don’t need to have a high libido after menopause. The window to get pregnant is closed. Thankfully, women’s desire is more than hormones and natural functions! You can enjoy good sex up to the old age. Many women complain, however, that their sex drive takes a nosedive once their cycles end. Why is that?
On the hormonal side, menopause means lower estrogen levels. And estrogen is our horniness hormone. In addition, it improves our vaginal lubrication. The age factor contributes to the drop in testosterone levels. Scientists have not been able to explain the role of this hormone in women’s libido but the connection exists.
Population studies, such as the one conducted in Australia, confirm that women experience more sexual issues as they move deeper into the menopause years.
Symptoms of perimenopause (the time when the body gradually shuts down reproductive functions) and post-menopause can also mess with your erotic motivation. If you are covered in sweat, experience hot flashes and mood swings, no wonder you may lose interest in bedroom pleasures.
Mind does, however, win over matter for some women. Many of us will get a renewed sense of freedom after menopause. No more pregnancy risk! And worrying about getting pregnant is a huge fun-killer for many women.
Tired and Stressed Women Have Low Libido
Women I talk to in my private practice sometimes wonder, how come their partners are ready to have sex after a major fight. They find it hard to understand that their guy is happy to make love even after an exhausting day. Most women don’t function like that.
Regardless of gender, stress can be a major libido blocker. Our nervous system is designed to switch off any unnecessary functions if it experiences danger. Our bodies don’t know we don’t live in the Stone Age anymore and don’t have to run away from a charging lion (well, most of us at least).
And so, our everyday job and household worries become the threat our nervous system is trying to manage. And it does that by switching off the “get horny” switch.
Fatigue is another major enemy of desire. One of the first questions I ask my clients when they come to me with libido problems is “when do you usually make love”. If they tell me that they only do it in the evening after a long day, I am not surprised they struggle to keep the spark alive.
That’s why exhausted parents end up sexless. They don’t have the energy to make love. And any attempts leave them with moderate to no satisfaction. Their tired bodies are more interested in getting a good nights’ sleep than orgasms.
Depression Affects Women’s Sex Drive Too
The year 2020 brought with it a new wave of depression. According to one study, depression cases tripled in the United States amid the pandemic. Loss of sex drive is rarely discussed in the context of mental health. Hard to understand as the loss of interest in intimacy is common in depression.
On a very basic, human, level, depression is a state where it is difficult to feel joy and have fun. And these are the important components of good sex. On a brain level, imbalance of such substances as serotonin and dopamine can also make you lose interest in the bedroom affairs.
And let’s not forget that certain antidepressant further reduce your libido. While your doctor can switch you to a different medication, the general rule is – focus on getting stable first and then look for ways to get your desire back. Don’t try to treat depression on your own. It is a life-threatening disease and professional support is necessary.
Relationship Problems and Desire
Your libido does not exist in a void. If your relationship is going through a crisis, it’s natural not to want to be intimate. The women I talk to tell me that they feel they are gradually moving apart from their partner. Lack of sex is followed by reduced intimacy and could lead to a complete breakdown of a relationship.
But a crisis is not always what it seems. You don’t have to argue every day to have relationship problems. Sometimes it is the collection of small things that have been building up over the years. The result? A quiet death of a relationship.
Low libido is but a symptom here and without addressing the deep underlying issues you have as a couple, no amount of sex toys will help.
Solving the Low Sex Drive Problem
To sum things up, understanding why you lost interest in sex is the necessary first step to get your desire back. And for most women it’s possible. In sex there is always hope, remember?
I know you may crave for a quick-fix solution but trust me, the effort you put into solving this puzzle will pay off. It’s rarely just about the hormones or the baby or even depression. Our sexuality is complex and these problems take years to build. Let’s give them some time and ourselves lots of loving care to come back. Back to good enough sex but first and foremost – back to ourselves.
Understand why you lost your sex drive and go back to good sex. Let me be your guide. Sign up for my free mini audio course. Listening to the exercise won’t take longer than 15 minutes. The course will help you build the foundation of a sex life that you actually want to go back to.
“I could live without sex” – is that really impossible that healthy, strong person just doesn’t need sex to be happy? That’s very interesting!
Yes that happens, there is an debate going on now even whether asexuality is another sexual orientation. But if someone loses interest completely and has had it before, it’s possible there are some issues to work on.
Lots of interesting observations. Thank you for this text, which also touches upon my personal experiences.
Thank you. I’m glad it’s been useful.
Wow, so much useful information, thank you. I didn’t realise it was such a wide spread problem. My libido is quite high since I’ve stopped hormonal contraception, am in touch with my cycle and on a journey of self-love.
Thanks, yes it touches most women at some point in life. For me it is similar, stopped using the Pill many years ago and feel so much more in touch with my body.