There is nothing wrong with your libido unless you think there is.
Your libido is your overall sexual drive or desire for sexual activity. There is nothing that states you must desire sexual activity 3 – 5 – 10 times a week. There is no medical minimum or limitation on libido. It is completely up to you.
Of course, if you have a partner, take them into consideration. But even they don’t decide if you have a high or low libido.
It’s your decision.
Great, now that’s off my chest, how is your libido? Have you taken a moment to check in and assess to see you are happy with your libido? If you have noticed something has changed, you’re probably not alone. Perimenopause and menopause are prime times for libido changes. And not just for the obvious hormonal changes.
As you go through perimenopause your oestrogen levels tend to dominate and your progesterone levels are very ‘hit and miss’. This can be felt through symptoms like overheating, mood swings, pain, insomnia and fatigue. Unfortunately, your libido also takes a swing. Most women in perimenopause are likely too tired, too hot or too bloated to consider intercourse, let alone initiate it.
As we hit menopause your oestrogen starts to flatline and symptoms like hot flushes, anxiety, vaginal dryness, weight gain and depression emerge, and again indirectly affect your sexual desire. Often this is the time that intercourse becomes uncomfortable due to dryness or your confidence takes a hit due to weight gain or anxiety.
Yes, the menopause journey can be a rough gig, similar to how the puberty journey can be a rough ride too. But you made it through puberty, right? You can make it through menopause.
Let’s just make a few things clear, so that you know how to manoeuvre and use these changes to your benefit.
See below for the most common reasons your libido takes a hit during the menopause journey. Assessing these factors is essential to naturally boosting your libido.
Oestrogen is either a love it or hate it hormone. It makes us feel young, feminine and lubricated, however it can also play a large role in period pain, breast engorgement and hip, buttocks and thigh weight gain. Whatever your thoughts on oestrogen, just know that it is the key hormone involved in vaginal lubrication. Vaginal dryness can lead to sexual pain, which can lead to anxiety or negative thoughts on intercourse, which in effect can predictably lead to a reduced desire and a reduced libido. Is vaginal dryness affecting your libido?
A 2014 study has found testosterone to significantly improve desire, excitation, lubrication, orgasm and satisfaction of sexual function in menopausal women. Testosterone is naturally produced in the ovaries at varying levels through your whole life. Unfortunately, as menopause progresses, the ovaries retire from functioning and your testosterone levels drop. This may be a large contributing factor for menopausal low libido.
Are you too tired to even care about intercourse? That’s okay. If that is the case, it’s a relatively easy fix – get some more sleep. Check what it is that is interrupting your sleep. Ensure that you are going to bed with roughly 7-9 hours before your alarm goes off. Check that your sleeping environment is perfect for you (temperature, light, noise). Check that you are relaxing efficiently before bed, allowing you to get to sleep relatively quickly. Double check you are not overdoing caffeine or sugar too close to bed. If you have done this, and you are still not getting enough sleep, speak with a health professional and ask for help.
Two factors are involved in how stress can affect your libido – psychological (distraction) and hormonal (cortisol). Cortisol is the main hormone involved in the stress response. If you think about how smart the human body is, it’s understandable that when our body is stressed it spends more energy and diverts more hormonal stimulus into surviving that stress, rather than procreating. It’s unfortunate (especially when you take into consideration the stress relieving benefit of intercourse), but it makes sense. Building on this, the psychological and time-consuming distraction that thinking about the stress creates dampens mood, focus and enjoyment. Don’t under-estimate the dampener stress can put on your sex drive.
Unfortunately, menopause can lead to weight gain, wrinkles and sagging. Fortunately, ‘sexy’ is open to interpretation. Your mental decision about how sexy you are, significantly impacts how sexy you feel, your confidence, your comfort and ultimately your sexual enjoyment. Have a think about what wrinkles, sagging and ageing mean to you. Try to place a positive spin on the ageing process and embrace your beauty. Or take positive steps to regain the body you felt most sexy in.
If you have vaginal dryness you may find sexual intercourse painful or distracting. ‘Painful’ and ‘distracting’ are not pleasurable. This can result in a disinterest or fear of intercourse, significantly impacting your desire or willingness to partake in intercourse again. Vaginal dryness is not an indicator of sexual response. It is an indicator that your oestrogen levels have dropped (as they do with menopause) and your vaginal walls are no longer creating the lubrication needed for a healthy environment. Using a lubricant or speaking with a health professional can significantly and quickly improve your dryness.
Some medications can do a great job at what ever they were prescribed for, but unfortunately, they can negatively affect your libido. A common example of this is antidepressants, specifically SSRI antidepressants, which are commonly prescribed through menopause. Other examples include blood pressure lowering medications and the oral contraceptive pill. If you are on medication and you are concerned it may be affecting your libido, speak with your GP to see what your alternative options are. Do not stop medication without consulting your GP.
Depression is a symptom of menopause that many women experience. Not only is it coupled with low energy and low motivation, but it also involves a chemical soup of neurotransmitters that are lacking in the ingredients for sexual desire and interest. Depression can be sneaky and be upon us before we realise it. Unfortunately, it is very common in menopause and should not be brushed aside. Take a moment and assess to see if depression may be present in your picture. Seek support, feel better.
Has your libido gone walkabout because you no longer have any interest in your partner? Is your relationship toxic, lonely, boring or repulsive? It might be time to have a very honest conversation and work on moving forward or moving away from each other. It’s a tough time, but menopause is a time of change and often your relationship gets involved in this fluent transition time. Has your relationship evolved with you? A change in your relationship may be the reason for your lowered libido.
Loss of sexual responsiveness/pleasure:
If intercourse isn’t what it used to be, speak up. Speak with your partner and explore new positions, temptations and foreplay. Speak with your health practitioner if pain, numbness or another issue concerns you. Sometimes hormonal imbalances, sensitivity creams or a change in scenery (not your partner, or maybe your partner) can be all that’s needed to put the spring back into your step.
As we all know, women don’t have an on or off switch. As it can take a combination of the right touch, play and words to get you in the mood, it can also take a combination of changes to keep you out of the mood. It’s often not as simple as one issue causing the problem, but more a mixture of two, three or more of the above. Have a think, speak out and spice it up.
Fernandes, T., et al. (2014). “Efficacy of vaginally applied estrogen, testosterone, or polyacrylic acid on sexual function in postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial.” J Sex Med 11(5): 1262-1270.