Your libido is on mute! Crank up the volume

Why your libido may be MIA and how to find it

You're rocking it. The kids are great. Your diet and exercise program are hits. Everything is spot-on, except SEX. You "can't get no satisfaction," you're not interested in sex, or having sex even hurts! What gives?

1. Too much to do! Whether you’re a soccer mom, single woman or newlywed, somehow, everything gets put on YOUR plate. If you have no “me time,” how can you have time or desire for sex? Sleep is probably the only thing on your mind.

Vaginal dryness can make sex painful

2. Antidepressants and birth control pills. Up to 70% of women and men experience sexual dysfunction as a side effect of antidepressants. Low libido, inability to get aroused and lack of sexual satisfaction are top reasons why women and men stop taking their antidepressants, according to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Conclusions on whether or not birth control pills negatively impact libido are mixed. For example, researchers reviewed 33 years of studies involving a total of  8,400 women and found 15% reported loss of libido, 63% reported no change at all, and 22% said their libido increased. Where do you fall? 

3. Stress, a heavy-duty buzz killer. Researchers are digging up more reasons every day why stress cools a woman’s libido. A study published in the Journal of Sex Med found stress can increase the hormone cortisol and decrease the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Cortisol has been shown to inhibit estrogen production and lower libido. DHEA is a hormone secreted by the adrenal gland and synthesized into testosterone and estrogen. Testosterone and estrogen are required for healthy sexual function. Unhealthy weight gain also causes cortisol levels to spike. Science aside, we can all relate to how stress can keep you distracted from sex. 

4. Childbirth.The joy of motherhood! Breastfeeding can help cement your mother-child bond but the protein prolactin, also called luteotropic hormone or luteotropin, is largely responsible for a woman’s ability to produce milk. It also can decrease libido, according to the article Libido and Breastfeeding – Where Did My Sex Drive Go?

5. Lack of communications in your romantic relationship. The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles found women who reported a lack of open communication with their partners were also likely to report low sexual interest.

So sex has gone by the wayside. What can you do?

1. See your physician. You may be experiencing female sexual dysfunction (FSD) if you have the following symptoms consistently for a period of two to three months with no clear origin.

FSD is characterized as persistent

  • Pain during sex  
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Low libido
  • Inability to have sex
  • Lack of satisfaction from sex

If these symptoms are familiar, you need to know you’re not alone and treatments are available. New research shows FSD affects as many as 40% of women. Although hormonal imbalance is not the only cause of FSD, it is cited as a common reason. Your doctor can test hormones levels or find other reasons for your inability to enjoy sex or desire it. Low estrogen can cause any of the symptoms of FSD: vaginal dryness, vaginal soreness, blood after intercourse from tears to the vaginal tissue, inability to become sexually aroused and disinterest in sex.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with estrogen is available in creams, oral medications, and suppositories. HRT medical guidelines for women with an intact uterus include estrogen plus progestin. Women who have had a hysterectomy may be prescribed estrogen alone. Only a doctor can prescribe these medications. Discuss your options with your physician. Women with a history of certain cancers may not be advised to undergo HRT with estrogen, progesterone or other sex hormones.

2. Lower stress and create “me time” by practicing mindfulness. Do you find that your "alone" time at the gym, café or hairstylist is "crowded"? The reason: Although you're physically out of the chaos, your mind is still running at warp speed. Practice mindfulness to find peace and solitude. In simple terms, mindfulness means focusing on what you are experiencing at that moment and nothing else. It's being “in the moment.”

Tips to learn mindfulness

Use mantras. Mantras are the repetition of words or phrases. They may be simple or complex. Mantras work by displacing stressful thoughts so you can focus on your action at that moment. Most people think mantras are only for yoga and breathing exercises, but mantras work for everyday actions as well. The study Washing Dishes to Wash the Dishes: Brief Instruction in an Informal Mindfulness Practice found a positive link between washing dishes and the creation of a meditative state for the mind. Sweeping the floor while using a mantra can also give you that much-needed escape.

3. Change your birth control. If you are on oral contraceptives and notice a dip in your libido, talk to your physician. The answer may be as simple as switching to another combined oral contraceptive. The article Oral Contraception and Female Sexual Dysfunction in Reproductive Women published in Sexual Medicine Review discusses a link between the first-generation progestin, norgestimate, and decreased libido. The same article reported that fourth-generation progestin, drospirenone, did not lower study participant's libido. Birth control pills Yaz and Yasmin both contain drospirenone and could help return your healthy libido. FYI: The brand names "Yaz" and "Yasmin" sound similar, but they are not the same. They each contain different amounts of active ingredients. Here's more info to prevent confusion: Yaz is also sold under the generic "brand" names Gianvi, Loryna, Nikki, and Vestura. Generic versions of Yasmin are sold under the generic "brand" names Zarah, Syeda, and Ocella.

Combination birth control pills Ortho tri-Cyclen Lo, Tri-Lo Marzia, Tri-lo Estarylla, Trinessa Lo, and Tri-lo Sprintec all contain the first-generation progestin norgestimate. Again, make sure you speak with your doctor before making any changes in your birth control. The cause of your low libido can be unrelated. 

4. Check your antidepressant. If you suspect your antidepressant is inhibiting your libido, talk with your physician. Another prescription antidepressant may not have the same side effect. Caution! Abruptly stopping your antidepressant can be life-threating. Speak with your doctor before changing or stopping your medication.

5. Open up communication in your relationship. Yes, talking more can help, but communication doesn't always involve words or follow typical couples therapy guidelines. Let him know he is on your mind. Flirt again like you did when you first met. Dress extra sexy. Try sexting. Research published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking showed that sending sexy text messages and sexy images had a positive impact on relationship satisfaction among married couples. Sexting of text-only helped couples who reported avoidance in their relationship. Sending sexy images increased sexual satisfaction among men and help ease attachment anxiety in women.

6. Try Lady V, a female “Viagra.” Lady V is a custom-blended medication consisting of sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, and the naturally-occurring hormone oxytocin.

How sildenafil may treat FSD

Women who have participated in studies on sildenafil for the treatment of FSD1,2 reported increased sexual desire, ability to attain sexual satisfaction and increased vaginal lubrication. Increased vaginal lubrication can reduce pain during sex caused by vaginal dryness.

How oxytocin may boost your sex drive

Oxytocin, the other Rx in Lady V, may improve your mood and help make you feel closer to your romantic partner. Oxytocin is a hormone produced in the hypothalamus. It is nicknamed the "love hormone" and "cuddle hormone" because it is responsible for creating bonding, trust, and intimacy among couples, friends, and families. A positive touch from another person actually increases the level of oxytocin in the body.3 Scientific data show oxytocin helps alleviate stress and decrease the amount of the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine.4

So let’s recap. How can you turn up the volume on your sex life? The answer may be quite the opposite of what you imagined. Turn off the outside noise and look quietly within.

  • Pay attention to your body. Could your low libido stem for your prescription birth control or antidepressant?
  • If you don't want to change your birth control pill or antidepressant, get Lady V to boost your libido.
  • Do you need to focus inward, on the moment, by practicing mindfulness?
  • Try sexting to open up communication and create playfulness between you and your partner.
  • If your estrogen levels are low due to pre-menopause or menopause, talk to your doctor about estrogen hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Estrogen and progesterone are prescribed for women with an intact uterus. Women who have had a hysterectomy may be prescribed estrogen alone for HRT.  

As you can see, there are several options to reclaim your sexuality. You don't have to just accept low libido or vaginal dryness. Having sex, enjoying sex and desiring sex is vital to your physical and emotional health.  Talk to your doctor, try new things with your partner.  A first-time could lead to many good times.

References

1 Alatas, Erkan, and A Baki Yagci. The effect of sildenafil citrate on uterine and clitoral arterial blood flow in postmenopausal women.” MedGenMed : Medscape general medicine vol. 6,4 51. 13 Oct. 2004

2 Caruso S1Rugolo SAgnello CIntelisano GDi Mari LCianci APremenopausal women affected by sexual arousal disorder treated with sildenafil: a double-blind, cross-over, placebo-controlled study.  British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology June 2001, Vol. 108, pp. 623±628 

3 Magon Nvneet, Kalra Sanjay The orgasmic history of oxytocin: Love, lust, and labor. Indian J Endocrinol Metab 2011 Sep; 15 (Suppl3): S156–S161. doi: 10.4103/2230-8210.84851   

4 M. Green. Chronic Stress: Cortisol and Oxytocin. Longevity Media. Available online at https://longevity.media/chronic-stress-cortisol-and-oxytocin.

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