Low sex drive in women isn’t often talked about. After all, there is no objective way to measure sexual desire or pleasure, and every woman has to define for herself whether her libido is adequate for her or not. A woman’s sexual desires also naturally fluctuate over the years. Highs and lows commonly coincide with the beginning or end of a relationship or with major life changes, such as pregnancy, menopause or illness.
But the belief that libido is just for men is both archaic and inaccurate. In polls, many women over age 40 tend to report their sex drive as being “below average.” In other words, the majority of women older than 40 believe they are in the minority and more importantly may believe there is something wrong with them.
Just as the factors that contribute to each woman’s libido are complex and unique so too are the possible causes of low sex drive. Sometimes lowered sex drive is prompted by an underlying condition, but often it’s a normal part of aging. Women nearing menopause stop ovulating. And since ovulation often prompts a surge in sexual interest, women may feel that their libido diminishes as menopause nears. Other physical changes associated with menopause like hot flashes, insomnia, and vaginal dryness can also impact a woman’s desire to have sex.
A drug designed to improve women’s sexual desire may soon gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) despite being twice rejected. In response to an appeal by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the small company that produces the drug, called Flibanserin, the FDA has asked for more information, potentially paving the way for the drug to come to market in the future.
In the meantime, there are natural solutions for improving your libido.
Exercise – Aerobic workouts (running, biking, swimming) not only improve blood flow to sex organs but can also boost your mood, pumping up “feel good” brain chemicals called endorphins. An increase in testosterone levels about one hour after working out can also leave you feeling sexier. Try to avoid overstraining yourself, though, since extreme exercise actually lowers testosterone levels.
Relaxation – Too much stress increases the stress hormone cortisol, which causes testosterone to plummet. Find a way to relax for at least 15 minutes a day, whether through meditation, yoga, listening to music, taking a walk or reading a book.
Excitement – Recent research shows that partaking in new and challenging experiences with your partner can boost the brain chemical dopamine, which helps fuel sex drive. These don’t even need to be in the bedroom. Enter a race together. Take the unknown trail on a wilderness hike. Host a game night with friends where each couple kicks in $30 and the winning pair takes all.
Supplementation – Ginkgo biloba has been used to treat sexual dysfunction. Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is critical for the manufacture of sex hormones in the adrenal glands. And Choline purportedly helps to enhance levels of acetylcholine, a brain chemical that sends sexual impulses from your brain to your sex organs.