Some women experience libido problems and struggle with guilt because they don’t want sex as often as their husband or partner. And men sometimes reinforce these negative feelings by considering low sex drive in women as the ‘problem’ in a relationship because they’re not getting sex as frequently as they would like.
Well-known sex therapist Dr. Rosie King says low libido in women is the most common complaint she receives in her work with couples wanting a better sex life. She outlines in her book Where Did My Libido Go? that there is a lot of incorrect information around the issue, making women feel guilty and ‘to blame’ for sexual tension in a relationship.
What is low libido in women?
A loss of sexual desire in women is known in medical terms as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) and it is the most common form of sexual dysfunction in women of all ages. According to health website WebMD, contrary to popular belief, the frequency of sexual intercourse has nothing to do with sexual desire or satisfaction.
Assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Jan Shifren, says there is no ‘normal’ frequency or set of behaviours. “If it’s working for them and or their partner, there is no problem.”
However, when a woman experiences a significantly decreased interest in sex that has an effect on her life and is causing distress, then it’s considered a problem of low sexual desire, or HSDD. Sex psychologist Dr. Sheryl Kingsberg says that sexual desire is more than just an issue of low libido or sex drive – it’s the biological component of desire, which is reflected as spontaneous sexual interest, including sexual thoughts, erotic fantasies and daydreams.
Who is affected by low libido?
WebMD quotes a recent study that showed nearly a third of women aged 18-59 suffer from a loss of interest in sex, and it’s not all in their heads.
Sexual drive declines naturally with age due to physiological factors. However, interpersonal and psychological factors can also play a big role in a woman’s willingness to be sexual. This includes the degree of intimacy in a relationship, which can drive her desire to be sexual with her partner.
Most women experience libido problems at some time in their lives, often related to hormonal changes (birth or menopause), stressful life events, or a relationship that is going sour.
7 causes of low libido in women
Unlike men’s primary sexual complaint (erectile dysfunction), women’s main sexual problem of low libido is caused by a combination of both mental and physical factors. For a growing number of women, hormonal changes, job stress, relationship problems and a variety of other issues manifest themselves in the bedroom.
Kingsberg says: “Women’s sexuality tends to be multifaceted and fairly complicated. Although we would love to simplify it so we could have the one-two or even a two-punch treatment, it doesn’t tend to work that way.”
Many factors can contribute to low libido. These include:
- Side effects of medication, including certain antidepressants, blood pressure drugs and oral contraceptives.
- Physical or medical factors such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, fibroids, endometriosis or thyroid disorders.
- Alcoholism, smoking and drug abuse.
- Emotional issues such as stress, fatigue, anxiety or depression.
- Relationship conflict or distance.
- Hormonal changes or imbalances, including low testosterone.
- Psychological or sociocultural reasons, such as a poor body image or low self-esteem.
3 myths about women’s libido
There are some common myths about women’s libido:
- If the romantic buzz fades it means the relationship is dead.
Brain scan research shows that ‘falling in love’ involves a crazy neurochemical cocktail that affects the brain in a similar way to cocaine. Over time (usually three to five years) that ‘mad about you’ rush evolves into a much calmer, more secure (and, some suggest, a deeper and more lasting) attachment. Female libido slows in response to this.
But a woman’s libido taking longer to respond doesn’t mean the relationship is in trouble – it’s all part of the natural ebb and flow of sex in a relationship.
Every couple will have times when male and female libidos get ‘out of sync’ for many reasons – ranging from work stress to the arrival of children. And it’s not always woman’s libido that is the problem. Men also experience low sex drive (which is different from erectile dysfunction, which is not being able to get an erection). At least a third to a half of all men experience times when they may also not feel interested in having sex.
Dr. King says social expectations in our ‘sexed up’ world are high; that we are always going to be ‘hot to trot’. These are at least partly to blame for couples feeling there is something wrong with their relationship, or with a woman’s libido.
- If you love someone, you should feel turned on by him, anytime, anywhere.
Sex serves different physical and emotional needs of men and women. For men, sex is the way they gain intimacy in relationships, while most women need to feel close to someone before their libido is aroused. Dr. King suggests that going without sex for a man equates to going without conversation for a woman.
She says: “Women are very good at getting their emotional and physical needs met outside of the romantic relationship, while men often rely on sexual activity with their partners to fulfill these very important needs.”
To address this key difference, it’s vital for men to be aware of all environmental issues that may affect a woman’s libido. If she’s had a lousy day at work, if there are things around the house she’s wanted to be fixed and they are still not done, if she feels unsupported and under-appreciated – all of these things will affect her readiness to be sexy.
3. You have to feel like sex to enjoy sex.
Since the sexual revolution of the ‘60s the concept that male and female libido is the same has taken root. Biologically this is incorrect. Men, with their much higher testosterone levels, are geared for instant arousal. Women take longer to feel aroused.
However, if all the other environmental factors mentioned above are taken care of, a woman can feel more secure and appreciated and she can enjoy sex even if she doesn’t feel instant arousal.
Sex therapists suggest that if a woman develops a mindset to say ‘Yes’, if she communicates to her partner what pleases her, and is willing to engage even if she doesn’t feel aroused at the start, she can still enjoy the experience. Her libido will usually ‘catch up’ once sexual engagement begins.
There is one caution, however. This saying ‘yes’ approach assumes your relationship is basically sound. If you are having deeper communication and relationship problems Dr. David Schnarch, author of Intimacy and Desire, Awaken the passion in your relationship, recommends don’t ‘just do it’ to make your partner happy.
“If you have negative anticipations of sex; if you are unhappy with yourself, or feel alienated or angry with your mate, you are not a candidate for ‘just do it’,” he recommends. He recommends sorting out these issues first.
6 ways to treat low libido in women
WebMD says that once the factors causing low sexual desire have been determined, potential treatment options may include:
- Sex therapy and/or relationship counselling. "Sex therapy is very effective for individuals and couples, and that is always at the top of my list," says Dr. Shifren. Sexual dysfunction usually affects both parties in a relationship and should be discussed together, or individually, with a mental health professional.
- Changing medications or altering the dose. If the problem is caused by medications, a change of prescription or alternative therapies may be recommended. If an oral contraceptive is suspected as the culprit in lowering testosterone levels, a different formulation, or non-hormonal birth control methods, may be prescribed.
- Addressing underlying medical conditions. Medical problems contributing to low sexual desire may require surgical treatment, such as the removal of painful fibroids or medication.
- Vaginal estrogens. In postmenopausal women, vaginal dryness may be treated with vaginal estrogen creams.
- Testosterone therapy. Some gynaecologists may recommend the use of testosterone therapy for women with a low sexual desire to restore testosterone to normal (pre-menopausal) levels.
- Healthy intimacy.
How healthy intimacy can help treat low libido in women
There’s a well-known saying that a woman’s main sex organ is her brain. A man who ignores this may struggle to find the right libido enhancer for his woman. Novelist Isabelle Allende phrased this thought another way: “For women, the best aphrodisiacs are words. The G-spot is in the ears. He who looks for it below there is wasting his time.”
And Dr. Rosie King is only partly joking when she advises that the best libido enhancer for women is “twenty-three and a half hours of foreplay”. That’s because, for women, the best libido enhancer of all can be a warm and intimate relationship before sex. Just buying some sexy underwear and a kinky video may often not be enough!
Everything in a woman’s day affects her desire and arousal, says Dr. King. And some of the best libido enhancers for women are built around a healthy intimate relationship reflected in:
- Good communication.
- Healthy intimacy.
- Non-demanding attention.
- Experiencing sensuality.
- Spending quality time with your partner.
- A low level of conflict.
If men understand this it will help them understand the need to prepare for what happens in the bedroom long before the lights go out.
Some ways for a man to help boost his partner’s libido include:
- Ask her about her day and listen to her answer.
- Give her flowers occasionally.
- Organise a night out together.
- Make romantic gestures like cards, flowers, gifts and compliments.
- Give her a card, or make an unexpected phone call, to say: “I love you”.
6 things a woman can do at home to support treatment of low libido
There’s a lot a woman can do herself to enhance her libido and create surroundings and circumstances that are conducive to her feeling rested and sexy. These include:
- Understand what turns you off and eliminate it.
- Talk to your partner about what turns you on.
- Create a peaceful and sensual space you feel comfortable in.
- Ensure you are rested and not under too much stress.
- Make time – and space – for sex. Don’t just expect it to happen.
- Consider using herbal supplements, including natural treatments like Herbal Ignite.
How herbal supplements can help support low libido in women
Women have recognised the need for libido enhancers for centuries and have looked to nature for answers. These include figs (reputedly favoured by Cleopatra) and artichokes (popularised as an aphrodisiac in 16th century France by Catherine de Medici, wife of the French King Henry II). Avocados (forbidden by Spanish priests as a danger to chastity) and almonds, which Romans threw at newlyweds because the smell was said to incite female passion, all make the list of foods to enhance a woman’s libido.
It’s not surprising that some women prefer chocolate to sex because it contains several chemicals that release ‘feel good’ brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. And then there’s honey mead drunk by Persian and Germanic couples in the first month of their marriage (which is where the term ‘honeymoon’ comes from), to encourage fertility and the birth of a son.
These days, however, we are more likely to turn to natural herbal supplements like Herbal Ignite for Women to enhance female libido.
How Herbal Ignite for Women helps support low libido in women
Herbal Ignite for Women is an over-the-counter dietary supplement taken daily with food to support pre-menstrual tension and menopause and to restore hormone levels to a healthy balance. It also helps reduce stress levels and increase libido.
Herbal Ignite for Women contains four key ingredients:
- Damiana is the key fatigue and stress fighter in Herbal Ignite for Women. Known as the ‘ultimate feel-good herb’ for women, it combats fatigue, relaxes the body, reduces stress and anxiety, lifts mood and enhances sexual response. It also helps balance female hormone levels, control hot flushes and is especially renowned for its libido enhancing qualities.
- Dong Quai is known as ‘the women’s herb’ or ‘female ginseng’ because it is recognised in traditional Asian medicine as an excellent all-purpose women’s herb. It is used to calm nerves, relieve anxiety and mood swings, aid in the treatment of various skin conditions, promote youthfulness, reduce stress and is also considered effective in treating cancer. It also helps restore hormonal balance, improve menstrual regularity and relieves PMS and hot flushes.
- Tribulus Terrestris is a general tonic that supports sex drive, ovulation and reproductive health. It also balances hormone levels, boosts vitality and sense of wellbeing.
- Horny Goat Weed has been used in traditional medicine as an aphrodisiac to increase libido, improve sexual response and function and create a feeling of wellbeing during menopause. It has been used since ancient times to promote physical and mental energy. It stimulates libido by enhancing sexual response and orgasm, relieves symptoms associated with PMS and menopause, balances hormones, relieves stress and aids in the treatment of osteoporosis.
Horny Goat Weed contains a flavonoid called Icariin that assists to increase nitric oxide levels relaxing genital muscles in men and women, promoting erections and orgasms. It also influences the stress hormone cortisol to help relieve stress.
Herbal Ignite has been used successfully by thousands of men and women in New Zealand and Australia to help beat stress and fatigue, boost libido and sexual satisfaction. It is 100% natural and free of unpleasant side effects. It is made in New Zealand to the highest standards, with thorough testing and guarantees of no adulteration or undeclared ingredients.
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Disclaimer. This information is provided for general informational purposes only and does not substitute for the advice provided by your medical professional. Always seek specific medical advice for treatment appropriate to you. Individual results may vary and are not guaranteed.